Thursday, 5 December 2013

ABC journalist Lindy Burns on communicating research effectively

ABC 774 Melbourne radio presenter Lindy Burns spoke about the need for researchers to effectively communicate their work to media and the wider public, at the SPHPM Awards Night on 4th December.

 “Health is personal,” she said, reminding the audience that medical breakthroughs can have a deep emotional impact on individuals in the midst of their own struggles with serious medical conditions.  In turn, the power of just one individual talking openly and publicly about their own journey with ill health can trigger a yearning in many others to take action, leading ultimately to researchers striving for cures or ways to effectively manage or prevent serious illness.

It's important for researchers, in trying to get their message out to the public, to remember that effective communication relies on authenticity and relevance, Lindy said.  Find the most significant part of your study to share with the public, or that aspect of the study that is most likely to resonate with an ordinary person’s life.  This approach is far more likely to get a response than all of the scientific jargon.

“And avoid weeks!” Lindy stressed, referring to the custom of various medical conditions being given a certain focus week during the year. “We’re sick of them!" she said.  "If you have something important you want the public to know about, tell us now - not when it's your week to do so!”

Lindy praised the philosophy of 'public health and preventive medicine' with the research focus on population groups and the wider community, as well as those less privileged developing nations.  "What you are doing is good: It’s worthwhile,” she told her audience. “And we need to hear what people are doing to reduce suffering.”

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