Making evidence on health policy issues accessible to the media
Roos, Noralou P.
Manson Singer, Sharon
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The media shape consumer expectations and interpretations of health interventions, influencing how people think about their need for care and the sustainability of the system. EvidenceNetwork.ca is a non-partisan, web-based project funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Manitoba Health Research Council to make the latest evidence on controversial health policy issues available to the media. This website links journalists with health policy experts. We publish opinion pieces on current health policy issues in both French and English. We track who follows and uses the EvidenceNetwork.ca website and monitor the impact of our efforts. Academics research important health policy issues, and journalists communicate with the public about these issues. Unfortunately, there is often a gap between what the media report and what researchers have found (Cohen 2009). The media and academia are two different worlds. The media look for compelling personal stories and attention-grabbing headlines. Academics thrive on dry statistics and typically conclude that more research is needed. While a few academics become comfortable with the media, interactions with journalists are often unsatisfactory for researchers. Each side tends to come away discouraged and dismissive of the other. Failing to communicate with the media, however, limits the exposure that research receives (Seeman 2009). Encouraging and training knowledgeable experts in the field to interact with the media is critical to the public's understanding of the evidence behind controversial health policy issues like the aging tsunami, the potential role of the private sector and wait times. But being able and willing to talk to reporters and write opinion-editorial ("op-ed") pieces is no longer enough. Reporters actively use social media, particularly Twitter, to track breaking news; newspapers as well as radio and television stations have active websites with videos and webinars. Web-based media, such as the Huffington Post and popular blogs, also have a broad reach. Funding available through the Partnerships for Health System Improvement program of the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR) and the Manitoba Health Research Council (MHRC) have encouraged a group of academics to partner with media to sort out these issues. This initiative led to the launch of EvidenceNetwork.ca.