New Guidelines To Improve Public Understanding

February 27, 1998, WASHINGTON, DC -- Feeling more confused than enlightened after reading or hearing about the latest dietary study du jour? Newly-released guidelines, based on an advisory group convened by the Harvard School of Public Health and the International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation, aim to help the public have a better understanding of emerging nutrition, food safety and health science.

"Improving Public Understanding: Guidelines for Communicating Emerging Science on Nutrition, Food Safety and Health" suggests both broad and specific "guiding principles" for those involved in communicating emerging science, from scientists and journal editors to public information officers, journalists, and industry, consumer and other interest groups.

"There is no expectation that every story will include all or most of the suggested information. Instead these guidelines can help communicators focus on the most vital information the public should have in order to form the most useful net impression of a particular study's findings," said Harvey V. Fineberg, MD, PhD, MPH, provost of Harvard University and Sylvia Rowe, president of the IFIC Foundation, co-authors of a commentary published in a recent issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (JNCI).

As one of the key participants in the advisory group, ABC-News' Dr. Timothy Johnson commented, "I think what the public wants is for us to be honest with each study as it comes along and try to put it into perspective, but keep reminding people that it's the totality of evidence as it unfolds that warrants their attention."

In addition to publication in JNCI (2/4/98), the guidelines were reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA, 2/11/98).

Reprints of the JNCI article and JAMA report and a booklet version of "Improving Public Understanding: Guidelines for Communicating Emerging Science on Nutrition, Food Safety, and Health" are available from

Contact: Amelia Steiner, Kara Cosby, Alison Esser
International Food Information Council Foundation

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