Why Do You Depend on TV For Your Health News?

In learning how to take better responsibility for your health, one of the important things you need to know is where and how to get the information you need to make the best decision possible. But, if you’re using local TV news to help you stay informed, forget it, according to survey by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press.

Nearly 60 percent of the people surveyed get their health news from local TV news broadcasts. And, no doubt, in response to consumer demand, TV stations are running more health-related stories than ever before. On the downside, however, the reporting is skewed, prone to error and often isn’t framed in the proper context either, according to the lead researcher.

The top subject covered by local TV health reporters during the survey was the West Nile virus (9 percent), instead of more pressing news about health-harming drugs or disease. When discussing the virus, few stories explained how to avoid it, probably because the symptoms are so vague. And, besides, more health-harming damage occurs through one’s exposure to toxic pesticides than West Nile anyway.

The real problem with TV health news, says one health reporter and doctor, is a matter of time. Adding context and details takes more time than the 75 seconds allotted to a given segment, and cools the hype surrounding a disease like West Nile, feeding needless fear.

If you want to get the straight scoop about health issues that really affect you, however, it’s important to learn the difference between fact and fiction, and that means doing your homework. Taking your first step on the road to optimal health begins by registering for my free eHealthy News You Can Use newsletter.

USA Today March 10, 2006