San Francisco Bay Area resident Patrick Totty writes about his experiences living with type 2 diabetesSee all posts »
Swimming the Information Sea
Besides coming to Healthline and reading what various contributors have to say, how do you stay abreast of all the growing volume of news about diabetes?
One of the simplest ways is to Google or Bing the topics “diabetes news,” “type 2 diabetes news,” or “diabetes research.” This will bring up many links that take you to news items that may be only a day or two behind what professional journalists access.
But Google and Bing, like any good thing, can kill with abundance. There is a lot to wade through and you can make your life simpler if you keep a few things in mind:
Read press releases with a grain of salt.
Articles that come from BusinessWire or PRNewswire are releases that companies have sent out to the media for general distribution. They’ve been written in-house from the company’s point of view, which means that they present their announcements in the best possible light.
The same goes for news from universities, charities, and professional diabetes associations. They all, understandably, are going to present their updates in glowing terms.
Quotes from officials are usually just huffing and puffing about what a great company/university they represent and how this latest research shows how much the company/university is committed to finding a cure. These quotes are inserted by the PR people—who will be out of a job if they don’t—to serve the egos of the higher-ups. They rarely contain any useful information.
On the other hand, direct quotes from researchers and scientists often give useful background information, especially when it comes to explaining what motivated the research, or how it was conducted, or what direction it might continue in.
That isn’t to say that you can’t glean some good information from press releases about what’s going on in the diabetes field. If Company X announces favorable results from the Phase 3 trial of its new drug for type 2 diabetes, you can be certain that it will ride that momentum and soon be asking the FDA for approval to market. You can add the name of that drug to the list of possible treatments you might consult with your doctor about a year or two down the road.
Stories by medical journalists are more reliable than press releases.
For one thing, most such writers have a “beat” where they’ve developed good sources for quotes and have come to know the field they cover pretty well.
Even though these writers may first learn about a news story from a press release, they bring two crucial items of added value: 1.) They can contact other experts to give a story better balance and context; and 2.) they can cut through the medicalese and corporate gobbledygook that often plagues press releases and render the news in plain English.
Actual abstracts give the most straightforward information.
If a story links to the actual abstract of a study, it can be useful to go there to see the names and affiliations of the study’s authors, as well as a summary of the methodology they used.
Abstracts are not everybody’s cup of tea. They can be dense with statistics and medical terminology that is hard for a layperson to follow. Still, they’re a good way to see for yourself that the reports you’ve been reading are, indeed, about a serious study by dedicated scientists.