Last week the Association of Health Care Journalists held their Health Journalism 2012 conference in Atlanta, GA. Each year the conference seeks to provide context and clarity around health care issues that have taken center stage thanks to advances in medicine, political activity and public interest. So it’s no surprise that shared decision making was a hot topic at this year’s conference. Dr. Michael J. Barry, president of the Informed Medical Decisions Foundation, was a member of the panel A reporter’s guide to medical decision making. Other panelists included Clarissa Hsu, PhD, research associate, Center for Community Health and Evaluation, Group Health Research Institute; Joe Selby, MD, MPH, executive director, Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute; and Moderator, Gideon Gil, health and science editor, The Boston Globe.
Michael was quite pleased with the questions asked by the standing-room only crowd. “Their thoughtful questions reflected what I believe has been a trend in increasingly balanced reporting of medical developments over the last year,” says Michael.
Gary Schwitzer, publisher of HealthNewsReview.org (a Foundation funded project) ran a workshop on health care reporting criteria for journalists at this year’s conference. HealthNewsReview.org, which celebrated its six-year anniversary last week, aims to improve the accuracy of news stories about medical tests, treatments, products and procedures. The project to date has had an impressive run with 1,700 stories reviewed on the website, and a review staff of 28 clinicians and researchers, seven journalists and two breast cancer survivors.
“HealthNewsReview.org plays an essential role in the health news ecosystem by providing solid criteria on how to evaluate medical developments for those responsible for informing the general public. The project does a service to journalists and the general public by keeping new organizations accountable for the information they put out there,” says Michael.
Other notable speakers at this year’s conference included former President and Mrs. Carter and Otis Brawley, MD, chief medical and scientific officer for the American Cancer Society. Otis’ talk struck a cord with many of the journalists in the audience. “In the more than a dozen years of AHCJ conferences, I don’t recall a more important talk than Otis Brawley’s,” tweeted Gary during the presentation.