URL of this page: https://medlineplus.gov/podcast/transcript012918.html

To Your Health: NLM update Transcript

News' public impact: 01/29/2018

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Greetings from the National Library of Medicine and MedlinePlus.gov

Regards to all our listeners!

I'm Rob Logan, Ph.D., senior staff, U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM).

Here is what's new this week in To Your Health, a consumer health oriented podcast from NLM, that helps you use MedlinePlus to follow up on weekly topics.

Smaller news organizations activate public expression and influence what Americans think about, reports a pioneering study and an accompanying policy forum article recently published in Science.

More specifically, the study reports news coverage about immigration, climate, and educational policy (from 48 smaller news outlets throughout the U.S.) generated 13,000 additional Tweets by more than 7,000 authors during the week post-publication.

The study finds this increase represents a 10 percent jump in activity on Twitter compared to the usual volume of Tweets, or posts, on the same topics.

The forum's author adds (and we quote): 'most posts were not from news organizations or journalists…. a large majority were produced by individual users' (end of quote). Moreover, the study suggests the posts reflected a diversity of public opinion about each issue for others to peruse and did not cluster towards one political position on a topic.

In the study, a cohort of stories on the aforementioned topics within 48 participating smaller, news outlets were randomly published one week and not provided the next. By following this research protocol, the study's researchers were able to compare their impact — similar to the control and intervention conditions within public information campaign research.

The 48 participating news outlets included: mostly smaller Internet only news outlets; news magazines with Internet sites; and some radio news services. Large national news organizations, such as the New York Times and CBS News, were excluded from the study. The forum's author notes large news organizations were seen as a confounding variable because of their well-documented reach. Instead, the study's intent was to assess if smaller news organizations activate citizens to pursue news topics.

The forum's author explains the study's randomized distribution of news about specific topics is a pioneering research method within news media-public impact research.

In addition, the forum's author explains the study's findings support a half-century-old hypothesis that the impact of the news media is its ability to set a public agenda rather than sway public opinion. Instead of persuading citizens to accept specific opinions about public affairs, the study suggests news coverage generates broader discussions. Or, the news influences what people talk and think about more than the position they may hold regarding a public affairs topic.

Although we focus on health and medical information in this podcast, the study strikes us as important because it suggests the most important byproduct of medical news coverage may be its capacity to generate awareness, interest, and discussion about a health issue instead of public compliance. In other words, the study encourages medical and public health officials to set realistic expectations about the news media's public impact.

Overall, the forum's author writes the findings suggest (and we quote): 'mainstream U.S. journalism remains more relevant, more influential, and more connected to a broad cross-section of people than many might have thought possible' (end of quote).

Meanwhile, a recommended guide from NLM to find reliable health information on the Internet is available within the 'related issues' section of MedlinePlus.gov's evaluating health information health topic page.

MedlinePlus.gov's evaluating health information health topic page additionally provides links to the latest pertinent journal research articles, which are available in the 'journal articles' section. You can sign up to receive updates about evaluating health information as they become available on MedlinePlus.gov.

To find MedlinePlus.gov's evaluating health information health topic page, please type 'understanding health information' in the search box on MedlinePlus.gov's home page, then, click on 'evaluating health information (National Library of Medicine).' MedlinePlus.gov also has a health topic page devoted to understanding medical research.

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A written transcript of recent podcasts is available by typing 'To your health' in the search box on MedlinePlus.gov's home page.

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A disclaimer — the information presented in this program should not replace the medical advice of your physician. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any disease without first consulting with your physician or other health care provider.

It was nice to be with you and best wishes for the new year. Please join us here next week and here's to your health!