Naming & Praising update
The latest SIRC Naming and Praising awards – for responsible reporting of health issues – go to Nigel Hawkes at the Times , for his report on a study of smoking and mental decline, and to BBC News Online for their item on Crohn's Disease and vitamin D deficiency.
In both cases, the journalists draw attention to the limitations of the studies in the first few lines of their reports – a policy recommended by the SIRC/ Royal Institution Code of Practice. Nigel Hawkes points out in the second sentence of his article that the study showing faster mental decline in elderly smokers lasted only a year, and conflicts with previous evidence. The BBC report states, again in the second sentence, that it is still not clear whether vitamin D deficiency could be a cause or simply an effect of Crohn's Disease.
It is important to note that in neither of these cases do the disclaimers and caveats make the story less interesting to read; nor is the reader inclined to question the journalists' decision to report on such inconclusive findings. The Times and BBC reports provide accurate information on scientific 'work in progress', without resorting to sensationalism, scaremongering or patronising. These are textbook examples of responsible health reporting, which deserve to be highlighted and encouraged.