Priority setting for resources to improve the understanding of information about claims of treatment effects in the mass media

J Evid Based Med. 2015 May;8(2):84-90. doi: 10.1111/jebm.12153.


Objective: Claims about benefits and harms of treatments are common in the media. We engaged health journalists in prioritizing concepts of evidence-based medicine that we believe the public needs to understand to be able to assess claims about treatment effects; and which could improve how journalists report such information.

Methods: We conducted a three-day workshop with a group of Ugandan journalists in which we presented and explained the concepts. We asked journalists to prioritize groups of related concepts using four pre-specified criteria i.e. relevance of the concepts to journalists and their audiences; ease of comprehension; feasibility of developing resources for teaching the concepts and, whether such resources would potentially have an impact. Using a modified Delphi technique, participants ranked each group of concepts using these criteria on a scale of one to six (one = lowest; 6 = highest). We analyzed the rankings in real time using STATA statistical software.

Results: All six groups of concepts were considered relevant and comprehensible with scores of five and six on a scale of one to six. Twenty two out of 25 participants reported having understood the concepts well, with subjective scores of above 75 on a scale of one to 100.

Conclusion: Journalists in Uganda recognize the importance of evidence-based medicine concepts in assessing claims about benefits and harms of treatments to them and their audiences. They should be empowered to use these and similar concepts in order to improve how information about effects of treatments is relayed in the media.

Keywords: Appraisal; benefits and risks; health risk; therapeutics; understanding.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Evidence-Based Medicine / methods*
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Health Resources*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Media*
  • Physicians / standards*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires*
  • Young Adult