Health care news stories represent an important source of information for patients. However, some evidence suggests that many news stories do not adequately explain research results and could mislead readers with “spin.” The danger of spin is that it can, for example, convince patients that treatments are more promising than they actually are or minimize their risks.
In a study involving a University of Minnesota researcher, recently published in the journal BMC Medicine, researchers surveyed 900 patients/caregivers to evaluate the impact of “spin” in health news stories.
The results showed that participants were more likely to believe the treatment was beneficial when news stories were reported with spin.
“This is important research because misinterpretation of the content of news stories because of spin could have important public health consequences as news stories can affect patient and public behavior,” said study co-author and adjunct associate professor Mr. Gary Schwitzer.
Schwitzer said spin can originate at all stages of the flow of information from researchers to the public. He and his co-authors suggest that spin can be managed by taking the following steps: