leaves on concrete

Translating complicated science about alcohol use in pregnancy into public health messages and media headlines can be a tricky task. At the 5th International Conference on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder held in Vancouver a couple of weeks ago, there was a panel called “Science in the Media: Responding to Controversy.”

The speakers addressed a range of issues, including:

  • How the science about alcohol use during pregnancy gets translated into messages by public health and by media
  • Tips for media advocacy
  • How historically the media has used science to promote products and allay public fears.

(View the slides from this panel presentation here).

On a similar note, International Doctors for Healthy Drug Policies released an “Open Letter to the Media and Policy Makers Regarding Alarmist and Inaccurate Reporting on Prescription Opiate Use by Pregnant Women” earlier this week (March 11, 2013).

The letter comments on how “reporting in the popular media continues to be overwhelmingly inaccurate, alarmist and decidedly harmful to the health and well-being of pregnant women, their children, and their communities.” The authors ask that media coverage “be evidence-based rather than perpetuate and generate misinformation and prejudice.” (p.1)

In their conclusion, the authors comment on the impact of such media coverage:

“Such reporting, judging, and blaming of pregnant women draws attention away from the real problems, including barriers to care, lack of medical school and post-graduate training in addiction medicine, and misguided policies that focus on reporting women to child welfare and law enforcement agencies for a treatable health problem that can and should be addressed through the health care system.” (p. 5)

 For more on this issue, see earlier posts: