An analysis of news media coverage of complementary and alternative medicine

Billie Bonevski*, Amanda J. Wilson, David A. Henry

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Background: To examine the accuracy and adequacy of lay media news stories about complementary and alternative medicines and therapies. Methodology/Principal Findings: A descriptive analysis of news stories about complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in the Australian media using a national medical news monitoring website, mediadoctor.org.au. Each story was rated against 10 criteria by two individuals. Consensus scores of 222 news articles reporting therapeutic claims about complementary medicines posted on mediadoctor.org.au between 1 January 2004 and 1 September 2007 were calculated. The overall rating score for 222 CAM articles was 50% (95% CI 47% to 53%). There was a statistically significant (F = 3.68, p = 0.006) difference in cumulative mean scores according to type of therapy: biologically based practices (54%, 95% CI 50% to 58%); manipulative body based practices (46%, 95% CI 39% to 54%), whole medical system (45%, 95% CI 32% to 58%), mind body medicine (41%, 95% CI 31% to 50%) and energy medicine (33%, 95% CI 11% to 55%). There was a statistically significant difference in cumulative mean scores (F = 3.72, p =0.0001) according to the clinical outcome of interest with stories about cancer treatments (62%, 95% CI 54% to 70%) scoring highest and stories about treatments for children's behavioural and mental health concerns scoring lowest (31%, 95% CI 19% to 43%). Significant differences were also found in scores between media outlets. Conclusions/Significance: There is substantial variability in news reporting practices about CAM. Overall, although they may be improving, the scores remain generally low. It appears that much of the information the public receives about CAM is inaccurate or incomplete.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2406
JournalPLoS One
Volume3
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jun 2008
Externally publishedYes

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