The development and validation of an instrument to measure the quality of health research reports in the lay media
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BACKGROUND: The media serves as an important link between medical research, as reported in scholarly sources, and the public and has the potential to act as a powerful tool to improve public health. However, concerns about the reliability of health research reports have been raised. Tools to monitor the quality of health research reporting in the media are needed to identify areas of weakness in health research reporting and to subsequently work towards the efficient use of the lay media as a public health tool through which the public's health behaviors can be improved. METHODS: We developed the Quality Index for health-related Media Reports (QIMR) as a tool to monitor the quality of health research reports in the lay media. The tool was developed according to themes generated from interviews with health journalists and researchers. Item and domain characteristics and scale reliability were assessed. The scale was correlated with a global quality assessment score and media report word count to provide evidence towards its construct validity. RESULTS: The items and domains of the QIMR demonstrated acceptable validity and reliability. Items from the 'validity' domain were negatively skewed, suggesting possible floor effect. These items were not eliminated due to acceptable content and face validity. QIMR total scores produced a strong correlation with raters' global assessment and a moderate correlation with media report word count, providing evidence towards the construct validity of the instrument. CONCLUSIONS: The results of this investigation indicate that QIMR can adequately measure the quality of health research reports, with acceptable reliability and validity.
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