The ability to translate health research into useful information for the layperson requires both excellent scientific expertise and communication skills that are often foreign to journalist and editors. In this study, we assessed the content of health research articles published in the local daily newspapers for the year 2003. Issues considered included physical presentation, coverage, primary content of the article relative to the country health profile, accuracy of the article compared to its original publication, health model (ie preventative versus medical/curative) and tone (emotive nature of the report, stakeholder addressed). The authors identified 321 eligible articles as follows, The Trinidad Express (108), The Trinidad Guardian (100) and The Trinidad and Tobago Newsday (113). More than 90% of the reports appeared in the newspapers within two weeks of their original journal publication; 10.5% of the articles had over 50% newspaper readership coverage. Headlines were prominently displayed for 70% of articles while 86% of the written text were located on the top right and left quadrant of pages where the eye naturally falls during reading. Photographs accompanied 36% of the articles.
Approximately 72.5% of articles accurately reflected the content of the original publication and 67% of them were classified as preventative. There were similar proportions of good (45%) and bad (47%) articles. The top five predominant themes were nutrition (24.3%), cancer (18.2%) women’s health (17.6%), heart disease (14.2%) and mental health (10.3%). The findings suggest a tremendous effort by journalist and editors to provide relevant health information in a timely and attractive manner; however, this should not be at the expense of accuracy.