WHO urges continuing vigilance over Japanese nuclear disaster but no new countermeasuresBMJ 2011; 342 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.d2491 (Published 15 April 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d2491
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Recent literatures studied the role of the media in the context of disasters and their aftermath, the risk amplification process that takes place after disasters and the way in which so-called media hypes frame new risk issues. Also studied how media hypes can trigger process years later, in which a growing number of people attributed their health problems to the disaster. Media hypes are media-generated news waves reinforcing over and over again one specific frame while ignoring other perspectives. Such news waves can fuel fear and anxiety among people involved in one way or another in the aftermath of disasters. People tend to adopt the explanations offered by the media and integrate them into their story about their own health complaints. This tendency applies to people with endemic health problems as well as to patients with identifiable diseases. If a sudden increase in media reports about people claiming health problems occurs directly after a highly publicised key event, there is reason to believe that it is media generated. However, if such media reports increase without a key event happening, then the medical problem might well be new. On the other hand, a positive role of the media in the aftermath of disasters was also found: the media can have a beneficial effect on the community by informing, educating, or communicating with the people. It seems that when the media and public health professionals work closely together, informing and educating the public with accurate information, beneficial effects can be achieved and the well-being of the disaster community can be enhanced. Points to be addressed
1. The media can indeed have an important impact on health problems and on how people view their health problems in the aftermath of disasters.
2. Only few studies actually examined associations between the media and health problems following disasters.
3. Multiple media outlets appeared to be effective in encouraging individuals to seek mental health services Therefore, more studies that explicitly examine the role of the media in the aftermath of disasters are encouraged.
4. The media needs to adopt more responsible reporting by seeking comments from appropriately qualified mental health professionals.
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Dr Osama Hammer MBBch., MSc .,MRCPsych
Competing interests: No competing interests