Making sense of health reporting

From The Guardian: “How useful is the never-ending torrent of health stories in the daily press? Not very, says Steve Cochrane, who spent a gruelling month sifting through the scary, the serious and the plain silly.”

Having spent the past four weeks monitoring the media’s coverage of health issues, I am now more or less convinced that I’m about to keel over, that antibiotics won’t be able to help me once the superbug strikes, that the painkillers will be more dangerous than the pain and that when they finally ship me off to hospital I’ll be awash in a sea of filth. And that if I worry about any of this, the negative thought patterns will make me ill. Always assuming the invisible radioactive gas doesn’t get me first…

Confused? Who wouldn’t be? Big, small, tall, short, fat, thin, breast, bottle, vegetarian, carnivore, coffee, tea, active, slothful – there’s good or bad news (frequently both) depending on which day of the week you happen to have opened the papers. The serious point is that this blizzard of contradiction and hysteria threatens to blind us to the relatively simple steps we can take on behalf of our children and ourselves – a balanced diet, moderation in all things, a modicum of physical activity, stuff like that. But the temptation is to wonder “why bother?” when it seems that a new and ever more deadly nemesis lurks in the corners of just about every area of our day-to-day lives…

Update: Fortunately, we have Dr. Kevin, who helps us understand medical news. He’ll be back tomorrow!