Australian governments -- federal, state and territory -- often mislead the public about important health issues by suppressing the results of research.
That's the conclusion of what is thought to be the first formal study of government suppression of information in the health sector.
When University of Western Australia researchers asked 302 public health academics in 17 institutions whether they had seen research findings suppressed by governments, they were told of 142 such incidents occurring between 2001 and 2006.
Twenty-one per cent of academics had personally experienced such a problem over that period.
Governments most commonly suppressed research through sanitising reports, or delaying or prohibiting publication.
The effect of the suppression was, not surprisingly, to protect the interests of government by, for example, keeping potentially damaging information about health services under wraps.
The researchers found that 87% of attempts to suppress information succeeded "and, consequently, the public was left uninformed or given a false impression".
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