Medical journalism explained

I know the NeuroLogica Blogger is talking about another topic (neurofeedback), but his description of popular medical journalism is so devastatingly correct I must direct you all to read it.

His critique of the recipe for media articles on new, and often absurd, medical discoveries is wickedly correct. We've all seen this pattern.

Now, I'm conflicted. I know most media about Family-Based Maudsley therapy reads like this. But as an advocate for the idea (which actually is evidence-based) I'm out there begging journalists to write these stories. I don't know any other way to reach parents, directly, before they get sold the usual (and non evidence-based) approaches.

Writing a book about our experience with Maudsley (anecdotal, I know) didn't light the world on fire. The topic has to keep coming up since most clinicians don't offer it. Yet.

So how do advocates of real science get media attention without buying into the model Steven Novella describes? I don't know. But boy do I love his description!


  1. Laura
    That link is a spot-on critique of medical journalism.
    If one is familiar with "the literature" it is possible to look up the resarch supporting these articles, and to decide for oneself.
    Journalism and research reports clearly have two different aims.
    cq x

  2. Heh. This is interesting, as I'm a science journalist.

    Novella's description is, sadly, quite accurate. In medical articles, a little vignette about a person who has the disease or treatment makes for a great opener.


    When I write a story, my goal is to explain the science for the average person, to translate it from "scientist" or "doctor" to standard English. And yes, good journalists present the evidence in such a way that the person IS able to decide for themselves. Most research articles are so esoteric that unless you're familiar with the language used by people in that discipline, you're going to be lost.

    Just my two cents.

  3. Laura, you will always have more confidence in science and it's results than I will. I loved the What The Bleep movie for how it introduced science, religion, and even magic to us. I guess the part of my brain that functions best is being in awe of how much we are capable of yet do not yet know. I was fascinated that water when frozen becomes crystals and can then be seen as storage for information, and how it connects to us in that we are made up of mostly water.
    Still, I believe so much in what maudsley has shown that I find it hard to believe that when anorexia has no physical base for not eating that food as medicine isn't the first approach in treating it. Food, fats, nutrients are what heals the mind and body. Why talk about it unless there was a clear trauma that triggered it. And then one still needs to eat.
    I do not understand why parents so quickly feel they are at fault and must change themselves. Wives end up blaming husbands and husbands blame their gets quite ugly for some families.
    We do know the parents of diabetic children do not have to spend years in FT "for" causing diabetes. They are simply given instructions, along with their child, on treatment. It seems to be the swiftest way to balancing their system.
    I couldn't wait to consult with science regarding my own daughter. It required offering her a way out of the hell that an ED brings listening to my gut instincts, and slowly, kindly, and even nervously at times guiding her out. We're still a perfectly imperfect family. So what?
    Oh, and one scientist I do know is a retired NASA scientist who is into the most unorthodox yet interesting healing based on much of what he learned as a scientist.
    What we believe does matter, IMO. It's not the scientists or Dr's. we need to convince, it's the parents. Your site has made a difference. It will continue to do so. One little ripple has become a wave....please know that it's changing. Like you I'd like to see some people wake up NOW but I have to respect their differences. Here in this country I suspect the only words they understand is lawsuit and it may come to that. We have a right to hold them accountable.There was at time when a starving child would be considered negligence. It STILL is. Yet, it's a horrible disease and we need to help one another, not condemn.

  4. Laura,

    You mention wondering how the word will get out since professionals rarely provide info on the Maudsley approach. I think it's going to take a group like this, backed with research, to advocate for the approach. We need to be a strong voice of advocacy. I was wondering if you ever have thought (and maybe you do this already) of developing and hosting a "live", grassroots network of parents. In numbers, we could have a mighty voice that could change a dysfunctional treatment system.

  5. rm,

    We will have greater power with greater numbers. And I do hope that the little community at Maudsley Parents and the Parent Forum and all of us come together to be that strong voice!


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