The media play an important role in providing consumers with information on TM/CAM therapies. In order to ensure that the TM/CAM information they provide is accurate, journalists - especially health journalists - should have ready access to reliable information. They also need to be informed about the importance of ensuring accuracy, credibility, balance, legitimacy and responsibility, as well as knowing who to consult in case of uncertainty.
Different forms of media serve different purposes and have special characteristics in relation to their ability to reach and actively involve their audience. Various types of media may therefore be used in combination to get across a distinct message in a tailored way, to reach a particular audience, and to improve communication between different groups of people (39). Furthermore, since standards, language, cultures, technical capacity, literacy and logistics all vary according to country and location, the message needs to be tailored to the local audience when different forms of media are selected.
The use of the mass media (radio, TV and newspapers) is one of the major ways of disseminating information to consumers. Because they target a large audience, the mass media have the potential to raise public awareness about different issues. However, they do not always offer the possibility to explore issues in depth. TV and radio programmes with a health content can be used as well as sections in newspapers that focus on health issues. Another way of reaching consumers is through information campaigns using advertisements and commercials on the radio and TV and in newspapers.
Journals, reports, books, documentaries and the printed media often provide more in-depth information than the more immediate and faster forms of communication provided by the mass media. However, in addition to the longer production time, their major drawback is that they reach fewer people, and that those who are illiterate, for example, will not be able to access the information. Journals and reports on TM/CAM-related issues play an important role in meeting certain consumer needs, while the printed media such as leaflets and booklets are another useful means of communication, easily distributed at health care facilities (conventional as well as TM/CAM-oriented health care centres) and retail outlets, for example.