Why health journalism often gets it wrong

typingContradictory tips and strategies about how to improve our health fill the airwaves, magazines and newspapers year-round. Drink coffee; don’t drink coffee. Eat whole grains; avoid carbohydrates of any kind. Vitamin supplements are good for you; wait, no they’re not.  All of these news stories claim they are based on “evidence.” So what’s the deal?

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What we know about gun violence

Each year, more than 30,000 Americans are killed in acts of violence using a gun. The problem is complex because it involves so many factors.

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New evidence on kids and exercise

We’ve all heard the reports that children today spend too much time in front of TVs and computers, and therefore are less physically fit compared to children in decades past. But what does the evidence say on the matter?

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The link between media and violence

Each time there is a tragic shooting that makes the headlines, media pundits question whether the violence found in many U.S. movies, TV shows and video games is a contributing factor to real acts of violence.

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An evidence-based birthday

By now, our regular readers know that here at EBL, we value systematic reviews above other forms of evidence. That’s because these reviews collect all of the available evidence on a given topic to provide a summary of what we know and an assessment of the data quality. In short, they’re the best way to find a definitive answer about what does and doesn’t work.

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Is obesity really a disease?

Last month, the American Medical Association classified obesity as a disease in its own right for the first time. (Previously, it had been categorized as a symptom or risk factor.)  There is plenty of evidence that shows people who are obese are more likely to develop diabetes and cardiovascular disease. But does that make obesity a disease in its own right? What about being overweight, but not obese?

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Gaps in evidence: Gun violence in America

News stories about the problem of gun violence in America have dominated media outlets across the country over the past year.  The tragic school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut continues to fuel an on-going debate about the laws surrounding violence and safety in our society. It’s a sensitive subject, and many people across the nation hold opposing viewpoints about what should be done. But one thing is clear: gun violence is a critical public health problem.

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The real evidence on prophylactic mastectomies

When actress Angelina Jolie revealed last week in the New York Times that she had a double mastectomy to prevent breast cancer, media outlets across the country interviewed doctors, breast cancer patients, and generally added their two cents to the discussion about whether this type of surgery is worthwhile. [Read more…]

Evidence-based sports: Are winning streaks real?

Over the years, EBL readers have appreciated our occasional reports on scientific evidence on popular sports. Indeed, during Cornell’s epic run for the NCAA tournament, we reviewed very interesting research on the “hot hand” in basketball, one of our most viewed posts.  We’ve also written about other factors that determine a team’s success and the science of the Olympics. [Read more…]

In the media: Evidence-based mental health therapy?

The New York Times’ Well Blog has a fascinating post this week on why mental health therapists do not consistently use evidence-based techniques in treating their patients. [Read more…]

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