As a writer without a strong science background I often feel the pressure of needing to share the big news items that are happening here at the Bloomberg School and accurately portraying the information. So often I’ve found studies misinterpreted by the media. For example, the Bloomberg School recently released research showing extremely high levels of folate and vitamin B12 can increase a child’s risk of having autism by 17.6 percent. The researchers on the study say these results show the importance of finding the optimal amount of folate during pregnancy as it is still important to the neurodevelopment of the fetus. They are not saying folate causes autism, which is how the much of the media portrayed the research.
I’m not writing to punish the media for misinterpreting important research and studies. Rather, the media does have power over what research gains public interest, and therefore financial support. If I feel pressure to accurately portray the science and to pick what would be interesting to you, my readers, on this small scale blog, think what reporters must feel when providing news on a national and world level. So much of public health revolves around the support of the media to help spread the findings to change policies and practices or create interest in a certain problem facing a population.
Needless to say, I’m very excited for the next Centennial topic. “What’s Next? The Future of Public Health” will feature writers who write about public health and how they foresee the future of issues of climate change, social justice and pandemics based on public opinion. Participants in the panel will include Yamiche Alcindor, a national political reporter for the New York Times, and Sonia Shah, author of Pandemic: Tracking Contagions from Cholera to Ebola and Beyond and The Fever: How Malaria Has Ruled Humankind for 500,000 Years.
The event is open to the public and will be webcast. It begins Thursday, June 9 at 1 p.m. and will conclude at 3 p.m.