Double whammy for Faculty academic
Associate Professor Alex Barratt with Senior Medical Director of Pfizer Australia Dr Bill Ketelbey
22 August 2007
An investigation into the poor uptake of evidence based medicine has won University of Sydney Associate Professor Alex Barratt the $10,000 Pfizer Eureka Prize for Health and Medical Research Journalism, for the second year running.
The two-part radio series Facing the Evidence was broadcast on ABC Radio National's Health Report in September 2006.
Facing the Evidence demonstrates a scandal in public health, showing that medical practitioners are far from embracing evidence based medicine. Professor Barratt reports that fifteen years after evidence based medicine was first described in mainstream medical journals, many doctors still refuse to base their practice on it. They choose to ignore research evidence and their patients suffer.
Put simply, evidence based medicine places greater reliance on trials and less on biological predictions, when planning treatment. The program points out that part of the problem is most doctors were trained in the days before evidence based medicine. But, says one interviewee on the program, the level of resistance among doctors is still astounding.
A family case-study displayed the issues perfectly for Professor Barratt and all her listeners. Her ten-month-old niece, Olivia, faced invasive procedures for a urinary tract infection. Olivia's father questioned the specialist, to be told the procedure was best practice, but not based on best evidence. It was best, they said, because it was 'what they always did'. The concerned father needed better assurance; asked more questions and was even accused of aggression. On contacting a paediatrician for a second opinion, he was told there was no evidence the invasive procedure was beneficial.
The program encourages the public to ask the right questions and insisting their doctors do so too. Professor Barratt demonstrates that by asking questions about treatments, the public can contribute to a greater adoption of evidence based medicine practices. "It's about patient information and choice. It's about making sure doctors use the latest and best evidence to make decisions about tests and treatments," she says.
"This is the second consecutive year that Professor Barratt has been honoured with the Pfizer Eureka prize" says Australian Museum Director, Frank Howarth. "This remarkable achievement is testament to her outstanding journalism skills."
The Pfizer Australia Eureka Prize for Health and Medical Research Journalism is awarded to an Australian journalist or communicator whose work is assessed as having most effectively and accurately communicated medical and/or health care research to the Australian public.
Contact: Jake O'Shaughnessy
Phone: +61 2 9351 4312 or 0421 617 861