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As the public pays great attention to health in the media, the press can be a powerful tool to educate about prevention and risks and about what medicine can and can’t do. But pitfalls and problems exist in science reporting and the quality of media reports about health topics is often inadequate. The Fast Forward meeting wants to be an open space for fair and pragmatic discussion about these topics.

The Media matter: a call for straightforward medical reporting

Problems with health messages are very well known: they are often exaggerated, oversimplified, lacking in context, or uncritical. Consequently, the public often lacks key information and context needed to make sense of claims or decide whether to believe them. This matters because it may promote unrealistic beliefs about health risks, intervention effects, and lead to wasteful or harmful health decisions. So, how do people make good decisions? Steven Woloshin, co-director of the Centre for medicine and the media, Dartmouth Institute (Lebanon, NH) talks about it at third Fast Forward meeting, Rome, October 14, 2022.

How italian online media report on observational research. A case study

The media’s key role in conveying health information to the public is not always supported by the quality of the reporting. Despite findings from observational studies represent a substantial proportion of media health news, limitations of observational studies are often overlooked in medical journals’ abstracts, in press releases, and in associated news stories. Camilla Alderighi, Associazione Alessandro Liberati – Cochrane affiliate centre, talks about how Italian online news media report on a observational study published in Nature Medicine in February 2022.

Pitfalls and problems in science reporting

Difficulty in accessing sources, low statistical literacy, poor education in the basics of study design and research methods, authority bias, haste and overworking: Andrea Capocci, il Manifesto, and Rebecca De Fiore, Il Pensiero Scientifico Editore, talk about the challenges science journalists face in Italy.

From the beginning to the end: a new health communication framework?

Research community should always give three dimensions more clearly: the context or baseline risk, the actual results, the implications. Nicola Magrini, director Agenzia italiana del farmaco, talks about why shorter is better, how regulators could improve study results presentatoion.

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