Don’t Believe The Hype

What is the most common flaw in health journalism?

“Conveying certainty that doesn’t exist.”

That’s Gary Schwitzer’s terrific response to this important question. At last week’s Presenting Overdiagnosis 2015 conference in Washington, DC Schwitzer, the publisher of HealthNewsReview.Org, listed the most common mistakes journalists make:

  • Exaggerating effect size– relative not absolute data
  • Using causal language to describe observational studies
  • Idolatry of the surrogate: Failing to explain limitations of surrogate markers/endpoints
  • Tyranny of the anecdote: telling success stories but rarely profiling dropouts, dissatisfied, those who choose conservative route or lifestyle change instead of treatment
  • Single source stories with no independent perspective
  • Failing to independently analyze quality of evidence


Here’s a copy of Gary’s slide. (You can view his entire presentation here.)


Speak Your Mind