The role of the media in steering public opinion on healthcare issues

Health Policy. 2003 Feb;63(2):179-86. doi: 10.1016/s0168-8510(02)00064-7.


The media can play an important role in influencing both the demand and supply of medical treatments, regardless of evidence of effectiveness. This can be highlighted by recent experiences in Italy following publicity for a new unproven treatment in Italy, which it was claimed was highly successful in treating a wide range of cancers. The media role in influencing both health authorities to fund large scale trials of the intervention and patients awareness and expectations of therapy are discussed. The changes in Italian media over the last 20 years have seen a reduction in the numbers of specialist medical journals, with increased emphasis placed on sensationalism rather than accuracy. The media though has the potential to play in future an important strategic role in disseminating accurate information on issues pertaining to health.

MeSH terms

  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Health Policy*
  • Health Services Needs and Demand
  • Humans
  • Information Dissemination*
  • Italy
  • Journalism, Medical / standards*
  • Mass Media / economics
  • Mass Media / standards*
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Organizational Case Studies
  • Persuasive Communication
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Public Opinion*
  • Technology Assessment, Biomedical / economics
  • Therapies, Investigational* / economics
  • Therapies, Investigational* / psychology
  • Therapies, Investigational* / standards