Listen to the Doctor . . . on Your iPod

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Over the past year, health providers, medical journals, government agencies and a bewildering number of self-proclaimed health experts have begun to offer health news and information via audio and video podcasts. These prerecorded segments are downloaded from the Internet and played on a computer or other device. A variety of software allows you to subscribe -- often for free -- to podcasts and receive automatic updates. Catch up on, say, the latest Parkinson's disease research while at your desk or the dangers of heat stroke during your morning run.

A recent search turned up close to 2,000 health-related podcasts, ranging from the monotone weekly audio summary of the New England Journal of Medicine to the mellow sounds of the Marijuana Memo (and, this being the Internet, no shortage of the sexually explicit). Here are a few we like:

· Johns Hopkins Medicine Podcast ( ): A weekly 7- to 10-minute program in which Rick Lange, chief of clinical cardiology, and Elizabeth Tracey, director of the Hopkins Health NewsFeed, a radio news service program, discuss the week's leading health research and news. Recent episodes covered the Plan B contraceptive pill and emergency room overcrowding. "We focus on issues relevant to people's lives," says Tracey.

· NIH Research Radio ( ): A biweekly report launched in March, this podcast focuses on research funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Each 20- to 30-minute program covers "what we think is newsworthy . . . to the general public," says Calvin Jackson, chief of NIH's news media branch. Lately, that's meant stories on autism, HIV among Hispanic youths and tai chi for cancer survivors.

· The Mayo Clinic's Medical Edge Radio ( ): When all you can spare is a minute, this podcast offers a quick take on a single topic daily. Recent archived offerings include segments on metabolic syndrome, premature babies and preventing breast cancer.

-- Matt McMillen

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