AMA conference focuses on communications clarity

PHOENIX: Consumers are upset with the way the media covers healthcare news, proving medical communicators with an opportunity to serve as interpreters of complex medical information, Dr. Andrew Weil told attendees of the American Medical Association's Medical Communications conference here.

PHOENIX: Consumers are upset with the way the media covers healthcare news, proving medical communicators with an opportunity to serve as interpreters of complex medical information, Dr. Andrew Weil told attendees of the American Medical Association's Medical Communications conference here.

Weil is the director of the Program in Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona's College of Medicine, as well as a published author and frequent media commentator.

"People are very confused and very angry about medical news," he said, pointing especially to nutrition studies that debunked medical beliefs about low-fat diets and calcium supplements. "The way it was written up in the conventional media caused people to say that nothing [they do] matters."

The problem, he noted, is that the media tends to sensationalize studies without putting them into context. He added that even medical journals tend to hype studies, a trend he called "disturbing."

"You really have to tailor messages in a form that's really concise," he said. "In this era of information overload and media noise, it is very helpful to be able to think concisely and be able to put stuff out there in easily-digested bites."

Weil, who has been called one of the most recognized physicians in the country, noted that that strategy has enabled him to be a media source on integrated – or "whole person" – medicine.
 
Weil also had a message of his own: he warned communicators to watch out for the "complete collapse of the healthcare system," which will be over-burdened by two factors: aging baby boomers and obese children. He predicted that today's for-profit medical system will evolve into a more affordable integrated approach, which will stress disease prevention over expensive medical interventions.

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