Health writing is more than just 'writing health articles'. Health writers have a huge responsibility to ensure that what they write is factual. Click To Tweet

If you think a health writer is just someone who writes health articles and blogs, you’re right…but also wrong!

You may have heard about Belle Gibson, the fake wellness blogger with her fake claims about curing cancer.

If you haven’t, let me fill you in. She’s a self-proclaimed ‘cancer guru’ who built a very lucrative business based on her claims that she cured her brain cancer through alternative therapies and nutrition. The only problem was — she never had cancer in the first place. And she had no qualifications in the health field either. However, that didn’t stop her from building a social media empire, releasing a cookbook and wellness app, and ripping off thousands of vulnerable Australians.

Recently, the Federal Court fined her $410,000 after Consumer Affairs Victoria launched an investigation, and brought a civil case against Gibson and her company. While the fines relate to her false claims about donating profits to charities, the case has once again shown why it’s so important that health writers — or anyone spruiking health advice — get it right.

The responsibility of health writers

Health writers have a tremendous opportunity to empower positive change in people’s health and well-being. But with this opportunity comes a tremendous responsibility. Which brings us to the question: Do you need health qualifications to write about health?

My opinion: No.

However, if you’re going to write about health without having any formal training, then you must tick the following boxes:

Source your content from reputable organisations

Any health information, particularly claims regarding causes, treatment, and statistics must be sourced from organisations that are ‘experts’ in the field. The best sources of information include peak health organisations and governing bodies, government websites, reputable medical institutions, and universities. Other blogs, ‘wellness warriors’ and Wikipedia are not credible.

Make sure it’s accurate

If you source your information from proper authorities, your content is more likely to be accurate. However, it’s worth referencing where you found your information from, especially if you’re quoting statistics that are subject to change.

For example, you could say: Around 1.7 million Australians have diabetes.

But a better way is: According to Diabetes Australia, 1.7 million Australians have diabetes.

Ensure you use the latest information

With ongoing research, statistics and treatment recommendations for a host of health conditions are always changing. That’s why it’s important to quote the latest statistics or refer to current health studies.

Provide references

credible health writer will provide references. Certainly, if you’re referring to medical studies, you must reference the original study, rather than an article about the study.

Providing accurate, credible and up-to-date references should be the aim of every good health writer. Click To Tweet

Include a disclaimer

With more people turning to the internet to research their medical conditions, it’s important you include a disclaimer within your article. A good example is something like:

This information is intended as a guide only, and should not intended as medical advice. Always seek the advice of a qualified physician or health provider, regarding any questions you have about a medical condition.

Stick to the facts, not opinions

As health writers, it’s our job to impart the facts without adding our personal opinions. As tempting as it may be to talk about your own experience, particularly if you’re writing about something you’ve gone through yourself, don’t. Stick to the facts, and keep your opinions to yourself.

Write to empower, not to scare

People reading health information want to feel informed and motivated to make some kind of change to benefit their health. It might be to lose weight, have a mammogram, or discuss their family medical history with their doctor. Facing up to health issues can be confronting for some people, so don’t scare them. While your reader may have a family history of breast cancer and therefore be at increased risk herself, focus on how being aware of increased risk can lead to earlier detection, rather than focusing on the likelihood they too will develop cancer.

My own experience

I’ve been writing health content for around eight years. I have formal writing qualifications, but no formal health qualifications. However, I have worked in a number of health organisations, and have some experience writing from the patient point-of-view.

If you're hiring a health writer, check their credentials. Do they have the knowledge and experience necessary to write on a topic as important as health? Click To Tweet

The bulk of my experience has been obtained simply by writing about health. Over the last eight years, I’ve written loads of health content, ranging from blogs, articles, patient information sheets, and newsletters. I’ve written for national and international health brands as well. Because of my experience, I now have:

  • a knowledge of the health and wellness industry

  • a solid understanding of key health concerns facing the Australian population

  • an understanding of how to write for the health and wellness industry

  • an ability to take complex information and express it in a way that the average person can understand

  • highly developed research skills

  • knowledge of where to source up-to-date and accurate health information

  • an ability to read scientific studies and interpret the information.

If there are medical issues that require expert opinions, I talk to the experts myself; and then I get them to read the article to ensure I haven’t misinterpreted what they’ve said. Because when it comes to health information, you have to get it right.

If you’re ready to hire a qualified health writer, with extensive experience, contact me today.

Cheers
Nerissa

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