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Public Health: Evaluating Health News

Use this guide to find a wide range of interdisciplinary resources and information about public health topics.

Why Think Critically about Health News?

As with any news article, it's important to read health-related news articles with a critical eye.

It's particularly important to critique health news for several reasons, including:

  • News sources want you to read their stories, and they sometimes resort to sensationalist headlines and exaggerated claims about the significance of scientific findings (see the headline above).
  • Writers often "dumb down" science to make it easy to understand, but they leave out important details and limitations.
  • News about health studies can impact the choices that people make on a daily basis, so it's important to get the facts.

Newspaper Subscriptions

Learn how to access the New York Times and the Boston Globe for free through your Simmons account.

Citing News Articles

As You Read Health News, Ask Yourself...

Here are some questions to ask as you read health news articles, adapted from PubMed Health's How to Read Health News.

You might need to find more information about the study/studies being described, in order to assess the article's accuracy or fill in the gaps.  If the article doesn't answer some of these questions, chances are it's not telling the whole story.
 

Where's the evidence?

Does the article support its claims with scientific research?

Did the study actually assess what's in the headline?
 

Does the article address limitations & biases?

Was the research in humans?

How many people did it include?

Did the study have a control group?

Who paid for and conducted the study?

Resources for Evaluating Health News