Blog — The Snow Report

Dads with smaller testicles are more nurturing fathers, according to a rash of news stories run by Time, NBC, USA Today and other news organizations. Trouble is, the underlying story is far more nuanced – based on a study published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, “Testicular volume is inversely correlated with nurturing-related brain activity in human fathers.” As healthcare PR professionals, we should be concerned when healthcare reporting sensationalizes scientific findings and fail to accurately rerport on these findings.

The key word there is correlated.

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Leading healthcare news watchdog critiques stories linking smaller testicles to men being good dads

As Gary Schwitzer points out in his excellent blog, most of the news organizations failed to accurately report on this study. Gary notes that the authors of the study, at Emory University, did not claim that they had found a causal relationship between testicle size and parenting skillIn fact, they allow that it could be the opposite: parenting activity results in changes in the male body, including testicle size.

In the Emory University blog the authors state: “We’re assuming that testes size drives how involved the fathers are,” Rilling says, “but it could also be that when men become more involved as caregivers, their testes shrink. Environmental influences can change biology. We know, for instance, that testosterone levels go down when men become involved fathers.”

To be sure, some of the stories, like the ones in NBC and USA Today, do get to the nuance, but deeper in the article after most people have read or heard a misleading headline.

Why is this important to healthcare PR people? If the media can’t get a story like this right, where the information presented is fairly straightforward, how will they get complicated stories right, such as the appropriate treatment options for patients with low risk forms of cancer?

As a Minneapolis healthcare PR firm, we’ve heard clients complain that competitors can make unsubstantiated claims about their products and not get called out in the media. Schwitzer provides a watchdog service for healthcare news stories on a limited budget. His organization, and similar efforts, deserve support. But it’s important that health PR professionals, and healthcare reporters, conduct the checks and digging needed to provide accurate information to healthcare markets and customers.

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