The media’s coverage of health matters. It affects what foods we buy, what pills we take, whether or not we get our children vaccinated. Yet health reporting is confusing at the best of times. Sometimes the experts don’t agree. More often, the media goes with a fresh angle because it is interesting, and the true picture is obscured.
These days it’s not just the journalists who get blamed. The new scapegoat is the university press office, which can hype up research in a way that distorts the actual findings.
That’s why Spectator Health has assembled a panel of medical experts to cut through dodgy press releases and offer a reliable verdict about the value and robustness of each piece of research that we report on.
Our reports (as in today’s here) will contain a ‘sniff test’ from one of our medical experts which will point out if the conclusion is new, long established or obviously wrong, and, if relevant, draw attention to more robust research in the same area. Each paper will get a score out of five — zero for meaningless PR guff, five for gold-standard research.
The medics and academics who are lending their expertise are GPs Dr Chris Hall, Dr Roger Henderson, Dr Michael Banna and Dr Ryan Maginn, cardiology registrar Dr David Warriner, cardiologist Prof Robin Choudhury, obstetrician-gynaecologist Dr Tarek S Arab and pharmacologist Prof David Colquhoun — all of whom can spot a dodgy Daily Mail headline from a mile off.
That way we can combine the virtues of good journalism with proper medical rigour. And, the next time you are baffled by claims that beetroot juice prevents dementia or that bacon will give you cancer, you know where to find a bit of sense.