What with HHS' penchant for video news releases and paid infomercials, you have to wonder whether it's in the business of government or advertising.
HHS' latest television foray is a 30-minute paid "national conversation" on its new prescription drug coverage, which is slated to air Nov. 19 on CNBC. HHS hired former NBC anchor and White House reporter John Palmer to help viewers get a better handle on changes to the Medicare program. The extended commercial, costing taxpayers "about $1 million," will mix rehearsed interviews with HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt and CMS Administrator Mark McClellan with staged "vignettes," says CMS spokesman Gary Karr.
But Karr is quick to point out that in print ads and the actual program, disclaimers have been added that clearly identify it as an HHS product. And Palmer is introduced only as host, not as a newsman. "It's not identified as a news show and it's identified clearly as being paid for by HHS," Karr says. "We've got the biggest change in Medicare in 40 years. We're trying to get across that if you know somebody, love somebody or care for somebody (on Medicare), you should have a conversation with somebody about this."
Still, some media ethicists question the relationship between Palmer, who is largely identifiable as a newsman even though he retired from NBC earlier this year, and HHS, which has had a sketchy history when it comes to putting out "news" products. Remember, it was HHS that got scolded by the Government Accountability Office for producing fake video news releases and then pitching them as the real thing to the networks.
"Is it an issue? Yes," says Diana Huffman, a lecturer at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland. "It raises an ethical question."
Kelly McBride, ethics group leader at the Poynter Institute, which offers continuing education for print and broadcast journalists, says that Palmer's role is emblematic of the trend for some business and government agencies to use reporters to advance their agenda. " `Former' is the key here," she says about the fact that Palmer has retired, which makes his personal ethical problem less significant. But she concedes: "It does create a perception that there's a coziness" between the media and government.
The lowdown on the rubdown
Massage therapy is rapidly gaining medical legitimacy. At least that's the finding of a consumer survey by--you guessed it--the American Massage Therapy Association. Based on the results, the AMTA estimates that 47 million Americans received a massage within the past year, and that the same proportion of respondents who visited a massage therapist for pain relief--about three in 10--ranked massage therapy and more conventional medications as delivering the greatest relief from pain.
Word of mouth about the glories of a good old rubdown also is up--about 73% of the respondents say they would recommend a massage to someone they know, up from 65% a year ago. Of course, this raises the question of why 27% of Americans who experienced a rubdown in the past year would not recommend similar treatment to others.
The growing acceptance of massages has had an effect on the healthcare industry and reimbursement models in recent years, with more and more hospitals and health plans embracing complementary and alternative medicine. And a massage is right at the top of the list. A survey conducted jointly by the AMTA and the American Hospital Association in 2003 found that massage therapy was offered by about 82% of the 1,007 facilities that reported using some form of complementary or alternative medicine.
"We continue to see that physicians and pain-management experts find massage to be effective in relieving pain," says Mary Beth Braun, president of the AMTA, which represents a small army of about 54,000 massage therapists. "And consumers are continuing to see the health benefits of including massage therapy in their regular health regimen."
Nearly 90 years of Memphis, Tenn., hospital history came crashing down in a matter of seconds Nov. 6 as Baptist Memorial Hospital was imploded to make way for the University of Tennessee-Baptist Research Park.
The hospital saw its share of history between its founding in 1912 and its closing in 2000, including two milestones in the life of the most famous Memphian--Elvis Presley's death in 1977 and the birth of his daughter Lisa Marie in 1968.
For much of the 1960s and 1970s, Baptist Memorial was the largest privately owned hospital in the country, according to Baptist Memorial Health Care, the 15-hospital system that the original hospital grew into.
It will take 11 months to clear away the debris, although construction on the 10-acre research park site should begin before that, Baptist says. The research park will be developed in six phases over 10 years on the site, which Baptist donated to the Memphis Bioworks Foundation, a not-for-profit leading the development of biosciences in the city.