BU researcher outlines coronavirus media failures, harms, and recommendations

July 13, 2020

In a new JAMA editorial, a Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researcher and a health research journalist outline common ways that media, governments, and industry and academic public relations press releases have incompletely and misleadingly reported coronavirus research, and how they can do better. "The COVID-19 pandemic has created perhaps the most challenging time for science communication in decades. Races are underway in parallel: to find answers to perplexing coronavirus questions, to announce research findings to clinical and scientific colleagues, and to report those findings to a confused and concerned global audience," write Dr. Richard Saitz, professor and chair of community health sciences at BUSPH, and Gary Schwitzer, founder and publisher of HealthNewsReview.org. "There are no winners in these races if harm--even though unintentional--is wrought by the dissemination of hurried, incomplete, biased misinformation," they write. "Trust in science, medicine, public relations and journalism may be in jeopardy in the intersection where these professions meet." By way of example, Saitz and Schwitzer describe how three drugs--remdesivir, dexamethasone, and hydroxychloroquine--have been touted as COVID cures, without explanations of the limits of the evidence. These rushed and incomplete announcements have led, among other consequences, to shortages, government stockpiling, and a baffled public: In the case of hydroxychloroquine, they write, "News stories and social media reports took readers on a roller coaster ride, alternately reporting efficacy, lack of efficacy, and harm, reporting dutifully on the results of each latest study." Instead, Saitz and Schwitzer recommend greater caution and more detail, including highlighting limitations, specifying patient populations, and describing new findings in the larger context of previous research. It may be a hard pill to swallow, but, they write, "It is important that complexity be mentioned and considered even if it is not popular among layperson readers."
-end-
Read the full editorial here: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2768397

About the Boston University School of Public Health

Founded in 1976, the Boston University School of Public Health is one of the top five ranked private schools of public health in the world. It offers master's- and doctoral-level education in public health. The faculty in six departments conduct policy-changing public health research around the world, with the mission of improving the health of populations--especially the disadvantaged, underserved, and vulnerable--locally and globally.

Boston University School of Medicine

Related Public Health Articles from Brightsurf:

COVID-19 and the decolonization of Indigenous public health
Indigenous self-determination, leadership and knowledge have helped protect Indigenous communities in Canada during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, and these principles should be incorporated into public health in future, argue the authors of a commentary in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal) http://www.cmaj.ca/lookup/doi/10.1503/cmaj.200852.

Public health consequences of policing homelessness
In a new study examining homelessness, researchers find that policy such a lifestyle has massive public health implications, making sleeping on the street even MORE unhealthy.

Electronic health information exchange improves public health disease reporting
Disease tracking is an important area of focus for health departments in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pandemic likely to cause long-term health problems, Yale School of Public Health finds
The coronavirus pandemic's life-altering effects are likely to result in lasting physical and mental health consequences for many people--particularly those from vulnerable populations--a new study led by the Yale School of Public Health finds.

The Lancet Public Health: US modelling study estimates impact of school closures for COVID-19 on US health-care workforce and associated mortality
US policymakers considering physical distancing measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 face a difficult trade-off between closing schools to reduce transmission and new cases, and potential health-care worker absenteeism due to additional childcare needs that could ultimately increase mortality from COVID-19, according to new modelling research published in The Lancet Public Health journal.

The Lancet Public Health: Access to identification documents reflecting gender identity may improve trans mental health
Results from a survey of over 20,000 American trans adults suggest that having access to identification documents which reflect their identified gender helps to improve their mental health and may reduce suicidal thoughts, according to a study published in The Lancet Public Health journal.

The Lancet Public Health: Study estimates mental health impact of welfare reform, Universal Credit, in Great Britain
The 2013 Universal Credit welfare reform appears to have led to an increase in the prevalence of psychological distress among unemployed recipients, according to a nationally representative study following more than 52,000 working-age individuals from England, Wales, and Scotland over nine years between 2009-2018, published as part of an issue of The Lancet Public Health journal on income and health.

BU researchers: Pornography is not a 'public health crisis'
Researchers from the Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) have written an editorial in the American Journal of Public Health special February issue arguing against the claim that pornography is a public health crisis, and explaining why such a claim actually endangers the health of the public.

The Lancet Public Health: Ageism linked to poorer health in older people in England
Ageism may be linked with poorer health in older people in England, according to an observational study of over 7,500 people aged over 50 published in The Lancet Public Health journal.

Study: Public transportation use linked to better public health
Promoting robust public transportation systems may come with a bonus for public health -- lower obesity rates.

Read More: Public Health News and Public Health Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.