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Ethics and integrity in health blogging

A fellow blogger, Carly Findlay, has today published Health blogging, honesty and authenticity. I am not nearly in the same league as Carly when it comes to writing about health. It was never my intention to write about health at all, I wrote about civil rights and politics. Then I got sick and my health and political concerns merged with the battle to save our universal health system. I’ve morphed into a part-time health blogger by accident of circumstance.

Carly’s article is very timely and appropriate, as she highlights:

There’s a rise in health and wellness bloggers – many of which have reached celebrity status. And celebrities have now reached medical practitioner status. As my friend Anne Marie said, introducing this article, “get your medical advice from a doctor, not from a celebrity” (or blogger). These people are not qualified to dispense medical advice or treatments – they are social media celebrities.

The very wise Pip Lincolne wrote

“Being well-known does not mean you know well.”

Ain’t that true.

I worry that the alleged doubts of Belle Gibson’s cancer and charity donations (and also the death of ‘Wellness Warrior’ Jess Ainscough, Pete Evans, and actor Charlotte Gregg’s baby paleo book) will discredit genuine illness and certified health bloggers. Pete and these three women have online fame – many followers who believe in the lifestyle they’re selling. As far as I know, they don’t have medical or nutritional qualifications. They claim they’ve healed through food. (And Belle might not have had any illness to heal!) And that is alarming.

I am following Carly’s lead. I want to make it clear what my intentions are when I write about health and what readers can expect from me.

  1. I am not a doctor, I am a patient. I write about what works for me in my situation. It may or may not work for anyone else.
  2. I will mention products or medications or food by name if I have found them useful. Not because I am promoting those brands but because it is more meaningful to write about specifics than generics. Also, I highlight shortcomings of a brand: those shortcomings may not apply to other brands and if I write generically, I could not highlight shortcomings. I expect readers to do their own research into products that may suit their individual needs.
  3. I cannot and do not attempt to write for the full range of severity of my illnesses. I write because I found there was a lot of information available for patients at the more severely affected end of the spectrum, but much less for those of us recently afflicted who are trying to not only manage, but to slow the progression of, our conditions.
  4. I will not write about alternative therapies unless they have the blessing of my medical specialists.
  5. I will not accept payment, in cash or kind, from brands related to my health (thankfully that does not preclude Ford from giving me a Mustang or Lenovo from donating a laptop should they see fit).
  6. I will write the truth as it is for me. Readers must remember I am in my body, not the reader’s body. I cannot live the reader’s experience, only my own.
  7. I will remind readers to consult their own medical professionals for advice and guidance on their specific conditions. Each patient is unique and needs individually focussed treatment.
  8. I will never claim anything may cure you.
  9. I will be honest at all times about the physical and emotional challenges. I will not sugar-coat reality.
  10. I will link to other writers whose experience I think may be valuable and I will link to reputable support organisations and research articles or news reports when appropriate.
  11. I do try to seek out and discuss possible causes for auto-immune conditions and will continue to so. This should not be read as my seeing any of the research findings as THE answer, but I believe we should all be interested in the ongoing research.
  12. I acknowledge that writing is a form of therapy for me. I find it is a way to remind myself I do still have a brain, even if my body is misbehaving. My reasons for writing are not therefore purely altruistic.
  13. I extend an open invitation to readers to call me out if they feel I have breached standards or written with a lack of integrity.

As Carly so rightly says, “There is no health blogger’s rulebook or union. I’m winging it. We all are.” Our intentions are to help others. We might not always get it right, we are not perfect. We can only do our best.

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5 comments on “Ethics and integrity in health blogging

  1. Hi Robyn, I just found interesting article with interesting comments in The Conversation. Maybe you’d like to have a look.

    theconversation.com/time-for-policy-rethink-as-frequent-gp-attenders-account-for-41-of-costs-38966?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Latest+from

    Like

    • I’ll try again with the URL:

      theconversation.com/time-for-policy-rethink-as-frequent-gp-attenders-account-for-41-of-costs-38966?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Latest+from

      Like

      • Sorry about this, Robyn. Maybe you can go to the post from here:

        “The government’s failed GP co-payment policy assumed patients were a homogeneous group that would respond in the same way. But data released today shows that’s not the case. Frequent GP users make up just 12.5% of the population but are responsible for 41% of the costs. As Stephen Duckett argues, new health policies need to account for these differences.”

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      • I’m not confident in the new data if it is the same as released by The Age today. The Age article points, again, to the aged, but as my analysis showed, women are disproportionate users from the age of 24. I’ll look at the article, thanks for alerting me!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi, TO! I’m sorry it’s been awhile since I’ve been here. What is your health problem? I’m sorry that it’s been quite trying for you.

    Like

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