Health.com, a new website in the vein of WebMD, offers comprehensive resources on headache and chronic pain. Resources include original articles as well as recommendations for other sites. The Daily Headache is featured as one of the best sites for headache support and I was interviewed for a story on sex and chronic pain.
Posting links to news reports related to headaches and pain has made me increasingly uncomfortable. It is important to stay on top of what’s happening with our disease, but reading headlines and brief, one-sided reports isn’t enough.
Media outlets do serve the important role of messenger, but the primary goal of newspapers and radio and TV stations is financial gain. Hailing the miracle cure, shocking study results or any extreme position gets attention, which in turn brings in money. I don’t say this to be critical, but to point out the inherent contradictions in reporting.
Reporters and news sources do have a responsibility to improve the quality of medical reporting, but we’re doing ourselves a disservice waiting for the industry to change. Patients have a responsibility to digest information critically. As I wrote in yesterday’s post about nerve stimulators, we have to question what we learn – no matter if we learn it from the media, doctors or alternative health care providers.
These are some questions I ask when I evaluate news.
- Is the proclamation in the headline supported by the findings described in the article?
- Is only one point-of-view presented? Who else may provide a valuable perspective?
- If it’s about a study, is it the first one to have these results? If not, are the findings consistent with those in other studies?
- Is cause and effect stated or implied in the article? If so, does the information in the article support this conclusion?
- Are the side effects covered adequately? Could there be side effects or complications that aren’t addressed?
While writing this post, I found Health Compass, an excellent resource on how to evaluate the reliability of health information. Although the focus of the site is aging, the lessons apply to anyone seeking medical knowledge.
As for The Daily Headache, I sometimes blog about news that doesn’t hold up to these standards. I actively decide if it’s worth sharing even if it doesn’t fit, but I don’t always tell you why or even that I’m doing this. I’ll try to be clearer in the future.
ChronicBabe is an awesome new website about enjoying life and having fun while dealing with chronic illness. Here’s a glimpse of the site’s tone and approach. Brilliant!
“If you’re living with a chronic illness and trying to balance healthy living and—whoa—fun, then you’re DEFINITELY in the right place. If you’re sick of reading depressing, clinical dissertations on disease, then you’re going to feel right at home. If you’re hunting for creative approaches to life, come on in. This online community is for babes (who just happen to be chronic).”