It’s been 10 years since Healthy Debate first launched.
Today we relaunch, redesigned and reimagined. But the changes go beyond cosmetics. When I took over the helm as editor-in-chief in late 2019, my first task was to understand Healthy Debate’s origin story and iterations so that I could guide who we would become.
Healthy Debate’s original mission was to fill the gaps in traditional healthcare coverage – tell healthcare’s untold stories, provide in-depth coverage of complex issues and bring important policy issues to light. Over the years, it slowly evolved to become a forum for debate about healthcare in Canada, a platform for patient stories and an educational vehicle for trainees interested in writing and advocacy.
But it’s important to acknowledge that the media landscape around Healthy Debate is also vastly different today. Health journalism has expanded beyond conventional newsrooms to include digital applications, blogs and social media – many of which are not subject to the same level of reporting or rigorous fact-checking. This can create a breeding ground for misinformation that crowds out evidence-based content. This is becoming especially problematic, as more than 70 per cent of Canadians search online for medical or health-related information.
Migration to mobile digital content has also changed the way health news is reported – there is significantly less funding for specialized or investigative reporters because content is expected to be cheap or free. As a result, health journalism is increasingly in the hands of general assignment reporters or freelancers covering a diverse portfolio of stories at a time when healthcare is becoming increasingly complex.
If we continue to underfund and underappreciate health journalism, we will sorely miss it when it’s gone. Journalists and editors are experts where we, in academic healthcare, stumble – reaching the public and prioritizing their understanding and engagement.
If we continue to underfund and underappreciate health journalism, we will sorely miss it when it’s gone.
So in today’s media landscape, it is critical that Healthy Debate not only exists but thrives. We’ve moved on from filling gaps to positioning ourselves to address needs in healthcare reporting. ‘Fake news media’ and the plethora of non-evidence-based viewpoints online make it difficult to find comprehensive, unbiased information about health and healthcare. We help readers sort through the noise. We are also a living lab to practice new models of health journalism in which experts and patients report from within, learning to communicate with and engage the public. And we will continue to be a free, open-source and unbiased source of health journalism that the mainstream media can republish.
Looking forward to the next 10 years, Healthy Debate is going to continue to:
- Be a trusted source of health journalism for the public;
- Be a platform for experts, patients and key stakeholders to write about health and healthcare in Canada;
- Leverage the skills of an experienced editorial staff to teach learners and stakeholders important journalism fundamentals – such as how to write for the public.
Regardless of how the media landscape changes, we can support healthcare professionals and patients as they play a more active role in shaping the public narrative.
I would like to thank the University of Toronto’s Department of Medicine and the Ontario SPOR Support for continuing to sponsor us this year. I am excited to lead Healthy Debate into this new era and am grateful to our contributors, readers, dedicated staff and the editorial board for their continued support.