Public Communication in Science Promotion
A study released in Pediatrics shows that an increasing number of pediatricians are facing parents who refuse routine, recommended vaccinations for their children. Pediatricians perceive that ill-informed parents have come to believe that vaccines, which prevent life-threatening illnesses and hold epidemics at bay, are somehow unnecessary or even dangerous.
I choose to vaccinate my children and try to help them understand the benefit through positive reinforcement provided by characters in their favorite books, like The Berenstain Bears Go to the Doctor:
“Why do we have to have shots when we’re not even sick?” said Sister.
“You see, there are some kinds of medicine that you take after you get sick, and those are very useful. But this kind of shot is a special medicine that keeps you from getting sick,” said Dr. Grizzly.
A good portion of our work at The Reis Group involves promoting scientific findings and medical perspectives of some of the top healthcare professionals and organizations in the country. It’s vital that we continue to elevate the profile of researchers and clinicians doing great work, helping to promote their efforts and findings into the public space. People learn more about health from the media than from their doctors, friends or family. Television shows, like Dr. Oz and The Doctors, even the TODAY Show, carry significant weight in informing and shaping the attitudes and opinions of the general public. Most of these programs employ contributing medical professionals who have a track record of effectively delivering a soundbite, looking more to the entertainment value than the actual medical expertise.
While ratings and viewers help these shows exist, it shouldn’t be at the expense of having evidence-based reporting, communicated by expert guests with legitimate credentials who deliver sound recommendations. We’re fortunate to work with organizations and professionals who share our value for evidence-based medicine and healthcare, but more work is needed to ensure that news outlets and health entertainment shows turn to credible research to inform the public.