Thursday, October 01, 2009

Media and public health

I think it's very worrying the way that news about public health is handled in the media. In the last few days regarding Natalie Morton, the media were very quick to lash the HPV vaccine and her death together. Yet it seems today that the underlying medical condition she had was a tumour and the vaccination has been ruled out as a cause of death entirely.

This relieves my mind as a parent who has to make those vaccination decisions, although I can't imagine the grief of the bereaved family. How awful it must be for them to have her death (and then have it compounded by the attendant media interest).

I think the media should be more responsible and measured.

I think that the government could handle things better: with the MMR, they did these scary and patronising adverts of babies and cliff-tops and lions, irrc. Those made me quite angry. Their leaflets actually made me more distrustful because they didn't give me facts, it gave me spin, and I can recognise spin. I feel they would have been more successful in getting their message through if they had trusted people with the hard information. It's plain that they think poorly of their audience's comprehension, but if science is presented simply & well and isn't shrouded by a lot of patronising guff, I do think that most people would be able to weigh it up for themselves. Maybe I'm being naive, but then their cynicism about people doesn't work. An attitude of 'we need to bamboozle you' because you won't understand the facts backfired rather well I think, and the anti-vaxxers ended up sounding more genuine.

On the bright side, they now have Health News from NHS Choices, which tells you about the research papers and strengths/weaknesses of them that the Daily Fail et al fish out their striking 'facts' from, to help you put such stories into perspective. I urge you to pass on the url to anyone who swallows medical 'news' stories whole.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yes, it's terrible how that news story was handled.

I agree about being patronised by govt advice. Reminds me of the way I was bullied by govt advice and health visitors about what to feed toddlers... they made me think that if I gave my children a few grains of salt they would die right there on the spot. Or their teeth would rot black in their heads if they had a molecule of sugar. Stupid overkill and I fell for it cos I didn't know any better. Abster x