Sharon Ufberg, DC, examines the underreporting of integrative healthcare in the media and tackles ways to combat the issue.

by Sharon Ufberg, DC

Is health reporting in our multimedia world giving the public a chance to understand how to get well and stay well? I find myself continually looking for broader coverage of the health care options now available in most communities and noticing a persistent underreporting of what is working in our integrative healthcare environment.

The sensationalism of news reporting today and the push for the thirty second sound bite does a real disservice to the many valuable integrative healthcare studies coming out every month. Coupled with the heavy emphasis on allopathic approaches to disease and wellness, health reporting often excludes many of the other critical stakeholders in the health care team. Nurses, social workers, chiropractors, Chinese medicine practitioners, body workers and energy healers are just some of the voices that must be heard in order to provide the public with some different perspectives. We are all aware of the newsworthy stories that could be written and reported on across the spectrum of healing in our centers and practices. Even in the large metropolitan enclaves, it is shocking how few people know about the many integrative centers that are open and the hospitals that now offer integrative services to their patients.

In my personal experience, even the professional association of health reporting is still very traditional and western medicine-focused and is doing a mediocre job of working toward fair representation of integrative healthcare reporting practices.
(Ironically, as I write this piece, the Association of Health Journalists published an article that included interviewing a naturopath about the future of CAM- bravo.)

Too often, while reading health news stories, I worry that I am reading a published marketing tool from a pharmaceutical company or a hospital public relations department, instead of a piece of health information. One interesting site: www.healthnewsreview.org, rates health news for accuracy, balance and completeness. They appear to be doing a good job too although their review team is missing even one representative from the Integrative health specialties. It is easy to see how the stories that require some orientation to complementary and alternative practice would get pushed below those medical topics that fit within the teams’ knowledgeable comfort zone.

So what can we do? First, start reading and listening to what is being labeled “health reporting” in your own local papers, radio stations and television newsrooms. Second, be the voice – yes YOU – be the story, pitch your local health reporter an interesting piece that will give people in your own community a broader perspective on health care. News reporters are always looking for their next story. We need to provide more entry points and doorways for health reporters to open. We must be our own advocates to create change in the media. It’s just that simple. 


Other articles by this author: