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Caution for research studies in the news

By: Dr. Shalini Forbis

THE latest research study shows….

What is your response when you hear a news story about the latest research study?

My response is always mixed.  I am always interested to hear about the latest study to make the news but I am also concerned.  Why?  Because being able to interpret findings of a research study is a complex process.  Medical students usually take a class that is designed to teach them basic research processes, statistics and then how to critically evaluate articles.

This process, known as evidence-based medicine, requires that an individual read the methods section of the research article, have the knowledge to determine how sound and strong the study methods are, and then evaluate the statistics of the article to determine how strong the findings are.  Using this information, the physician would then make a decision about how clinically important the findings are.  In addition, one study may not be enough for the finding to be considered strong enough for that result to then become part of medical practice.  Sometimes, the result you are hearing in the news segment may be the interpretation of the findings by the journalist or based on a short interview with the researcher.

So, if you hear or read a news story that seems to be important to your health or the health of your child, discuss it with your doctor.  They have received training and should be able to help you understand whether this is relevant to your child.

I am always interested to hear a news story about new health findings, just take it with a grain of salt!

By: Dr. Shalini Forbis

Dr. Forbis a pediatrician in the Children’s Health Clinic at Dayton Children’s and a mother to two girls. As part of the “Dr. Mom Sqaud,” Dr. Forbis blogs about her experiences as both as doctor and a mom and hopes to share insight to other parents on issues related to both parenting and kids health. Learn more about Dr. Forbis.

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