Science, Health, and Public Trust

Clearing the Path to Understanding

Posted on August 10, 2016

People seek health and science information for many different reasons. They may be trying to understand a loved one’s disease, learn more about their own health concern, or discover more about a topic they saw in the news. Truly grasping the topic is important for making informed health decisions. But reading about unfamiliar health or science topics can be daunting, as scientific articles are filled with technical jargon and difficult concepts.

How can we help our readers through this process? As science communicators, we can provide a simpler path for the non-expert to access research by translating studies into clear language. This doesn’t mean “dumbing it down.” It means providing a straightforward explanation using clear (or plain) language.

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Animal Studies: Handle With Care

Posted on July 6, 2016

Scientists have cured [insert disease here]…in mice…again. But what about us? Many health headlines have a hidden caveat that the reported breakthrough is still at the laboratory level, yet to be tested on actual humans. New treatment approaches typically go through repeated and increasingly rigorous tests using animal models before they reach clinical studies in humans, with many potential therapies rejected along the way.

But that doesn't mean we should throw up our hands and say “this is too preliminary.” Animal studies are crucial to the development of treatments, and you'd be hard pressed to point to one medical therapy used today that didn’t involve animal studies. Vaccines for polio, cholesterol-lowering statins, L-dopa for Parkinson's disease, the cocktail of drugs that have made AIDS a manageable disease… these all have their origin in animal studies.

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Choice Words and Word Choices

Posted on June 14, 2016

A jumble of wordsflas100/iStock

Do you often find yourself searching for just the right word? As health communicators, a key part of our job is choosing the best term and providing the correct context. But sometimes the words we choose, or how we frame them, may not convey what we actually mean.

How would you describe high cholesterol or insulin resistance? What about shyness or pregnancy? Are they diseases? Are they risk factors? Are they conditions? Are they signs or symptoms? Or are they just normal behaviors or qualities?

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This page last reviewed on August 11, 2016