Reporting Health and Medicine
Instructor: Thomas Abraham
Office: Eliot Hall 115
Ph: 2219 4017
E mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Class Time: Tuesday 14.00 –16.55p.m.
Venue: EH 101
About the course:
The aim of this course is to introduce you to public health and medical reporting, and provide you with the basic skills and knowledge required to specialise in this rapidly growing field of journalism. You do not need a previous background in science or medicine to be a medical or health reporter, but you need an interest in science and medicine. Since this is a journalism course, students will report and write medical stories for their course assessment.
The course will have a strong practical element. You will visit clinics and research centres and get a first hand understanding of what doctors do, and how the health system works. You will also be introduced to basic concepts of clinical medicine and epidemiology, learn how to interpret medical statistics, write stories based on research appearing in medical journals and learn to evaluate the different sources of medical news.
Intended Learning Outcomes:
1) To understand and evaluate the sources of medical and health news, and to distinguish between different types of studies and degrees of evidence.
2) To learn how to cover medical research and write accurate news stories based on new research.
3) To be familiar with the major issues in global and local public health
4) To understand how the health systems work
Course work and assessment
Each of you will pick a health area and write three short stories based on new findings published in medical journals. This will count for 40 % of you assessment.
You will complete the on line courses on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria at the Global Health e learning centre (40%)
You will read and review a book on health journalism from a list distributed in class (10%)
Class attendance, enthusiastic participation in class work and discussions 10%
The Rise and Fall of Modern Medicine. James Le Fanu (Available at the University Book store).
Supplementary Reading (available on Library Reserve list):
Ragnar Levi, “Medical Journalism; Exposing Fact, Fiction and Fraud” Iowa State University Press
Victor Cohn, “News and Numbers”, Blackwell publishers
Additional readings will be set for individual classes
List of books for review:
Oliver Sacks “The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat, and Other Clinical Tales.”
Atul Gawande “Better-An essential lesson in life”
John M. Barry “The great influenza”
John Stone, “In the Country of Hearts – Journeys in the Art of Medicine”
Atul Gawande, “ Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science”
Rebecca Skloot, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks”
Abraham Verghese, “The Tennis Partner, A Doctor’s Story of Friendship and Loss”
2. Media Doctor Australia: A pioneering site by a group of Australian doctors who devised rating system for health stories in the news. http://www.mediadoctor.org.au/
5. World Health Organization: Contains news and background information about health and diseases. www.who.int
7. Medline Plus Medical Dictionary: This is an excellent online medical dictionary from the US National Institutes of Health explaining medical terms and disease conditions simply and comprehensibly.
8. Pro-Med Mail (www.promedmail.org)
Introduction to health journalism and the course; public health and clinical medicine; discussion of course work.
Gary Schwitzer et al “What are the Roles and Responsibilities of the Media in Disseminating Health Information? PLOS Medicine, July 2005 (distributed in class)
The sources of Medical News, Study Designs and Understanding Medical Research
Using public health statistics
Discussion on Introduction and Chapters on penicillin and cortisone in “The Rise and Fall of Modern Medicine”
Disease Detective exercise
“The Rise and Fall of Modern Medicine”, Introduction, and Chapters 1 and 2 (penicillin and cortisone)
Practical Exercise: Writing a medical story based on a paper in a medical journal.
Comparing Medical treatments- Absolute vs Relative Risk Reduction, Number Needed to Treat
Erik Rifkin, Edward Bouwer, “The Illusion of Certainty, Chapter 2 Cause and Effects vs Risk Factors” (to be distributed in class)
“The Rise and Fall of Modern Medicine”, chapters on Open Heart Surgery, Hip Replacement and Kidney Transplants ( To be discussed in class)
The Pandemic of 2009 and a brief ABC of Influenza
Class discussion n HIV/AIDS at Global Health E Learning Centre
From Animals to Humans: the emergence of new diseases
Class Discussion: Malaria
“Twentieth Century Plague, the Story of SARS” by Thomas Abraham. Chapters 1 and 6 ( to be distributed in class)
Class Discussion Malaria
Guest lecture by Ee Lynn Tan, Asia Health Reporter, Reuters (date to be confirmed)
Class Discussion: Tuberculosis
Heart Diseases, strokes, cancers and non-communicable diseases
Medicine at the grass roots: the world of the general practitioner and family medicine. Guest Lecturer: Dr T.P. Lam, Family Medicine Unit, Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine, HKU. We will visit the Family Medicine Unit at Ap Lei Chau and see the work they do. (To be confirmed)
Readings: Chapter 4, Technology’s triumphs, and Chapter on Doing More” in “The Rise and fall of Modern Medicine”
Visit to Centre for Health Protection (To be confirmed
Autism (Dr Grainne McAlonan, Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine, HKU. Date to be confirmed)
Readings: TBA by guest speaker
Class Discussion on Chapter 4 in “The Rise and fall of Modern Medicine”
Wrap up and discussion on web stories.
Grading Scale for Assignments and the Course
Each of your assignments will be graded according to the above descriptors on the following scale:
A+ = 80% B- = 60-62%
A = 75-79% C-= 50-52%
A- = 70-74% F= 49% and below