Health Sector Reporting: Do No Harm


A Brief Note On The Status-Quo

“Bacon Can Cause Cancer.” “Drinking Red Wine Just As Good As Hitting The Gym.”

These headlines certainly make for likely click-bait. (The last one in particular, if you’re anything like me and have New Year’s resolutions of “getting healthier” on the mind.)

They may even be laughable. But it’s no joke.

Journalists reporting on health sector developments deliver public health messages that can influence the behavior of patients.

Because of this, the media’s reliance on data dredging studies – when data mining is used to uncover patterns displayed as statistically significant, despite no genuine link of causality – can do more harm than good.

It’s why it’s so easy to find news sources awash with directly contradictory health stories; on how coffee can cause cancer, but also help decrease the risk of cancer.

We have a responsibility to fully attribute studies, and give enough room to appropriate experts to provide real context: the public needs to know how new findings slot into the current consensus.

It’s one of the reasons I loved working in radio so much. Three-five minute audio packages can hold the attention of a listener in the way a short article (probably shared on Facebook or Twitter) may struggle to. Yet as I transition back into focusing more on online and print media, I need to find ways of addressing this issue.

Health Sector Reporting Portfolio

Below, I’m embedding a portfolio selection of the audio packages I reported on within the UK health sector. They were produced when I was freelancing in London between 2013-14 for the Voice of Russia London Bureau.

NHS IT System: ‘Biggest Public Sector Fiasco Ever’

It’s been revealed that a failed IT system designed for the National Health Service has cost taxpayers nearly £10 billion so far. In a devastating new report by the Public Accounts Committee, the system has been labelled “the biggest IT failure ever seen”. Originally aimed at centralising health records the computerised system has never seen the light of day.


UK Youth Health Record Tantamount To ‘Mass Child Neglect’

A report in the British Medical Journal has warned that the UK is suffering from a public health crisis, and accuses the government of not doing enough to tackle obesity, poor diet and smoking. The President of Public Health England, John Ashton, has called the study a wake-up call, warning that current levels of school inactivity and poor diet are tantamount to “mass child neglect”.


Whistleblowers Vulnerable To Intimidation And Illegal Blacklisting

Current safeguards leave whistleblowers vulnerable to intimidation and violent abuse: that’s according to a new report by the charity Public Concern at Work. Several prominent whistleblowers have backed the findings, including Debbie Hazeldine, who exposed the NHS Mid Staffs scandal after the death of her mother and 1,400 others.

NHS Squanders Fifth Of Maternity Budget On Negligence Cover

The National Audit Office has revealed that the NHS is spending nearly £700 on negligence cover on every live birth in the UK. The NAO said that from 2012-2013 this amounted to almost £500 million. Chronic staff shortages and an increasing number of complications in births are proving to be costly to the British public health sector and taxpayers.


I’ve absolutely loved travelling around the world for the last two years, and writing about my passion. Now, having arrived back in London, I  hope to move back into covering the health sector – a division of journalism I found genuinely intriguing and challenging.

Meanwhile, I’ll hold the maxim in mind: do no harm.

-Nima Sherpa Green.




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