Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Remedial Media

The media plays an important role in shaping public health concerns.  Earlier this spring, intense news coverage of the H1N1 flu outbreak prompted scores of mostly worried well to rush to the hospital and overwhelm their local emergency department.  

According to a study presented at this week's ACEP conference in Boston, a similar effect was observed following the death of actress Natasha Richardson.  The authors looked at 19 EDs across New York and New Jersey, and found a 73% increase in the number of patients presenting with head trauma in the days following the event.  

A few weeks ago, the Medscape Emergency Medicine blog asked "Will the Media Screw Emergency Departments Again on H1N1," which is a valid question.  The medical community relies on the media to convey important health information to the public, but the balance between responsible reporting and sensationalizing can make a big difference in the waiting room.

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