Those seeking to defend public health budgets amid financial turmoil were unlikely to take heart from the press this week.

Coverage of a King's Fund report seemed to be fuelled by wishful thinking rather than the contents of the document itself.

"Millions 'wasted on health campaigns'" and "NHS drive to beat obesity is 'waste of cash'" were the interpretations of The Daily Telegraph and the Daily Express.

The Independent on Sunday went a step further.

"Experts say the NHS must learn from the commercial sector, which for years has been successfully marketing things that are bad for us."

The report itself calls for comprehensive, well designed public health campaigns to get messages through.

The trouble with information

Surely the Hull weight loss clinic which convinced John Prescott to back it - gaining a spot in The Sun titled "Fatfighter Prezza" - would be worthy of commendation?

Mr Prescott is even offering to help the local PCT measure its improvements.

But in the light of some of the other health messages making the popular press this week, the King's Fund finding that "information on its own has little effect" may not be a bad thing.

Giving immediate heed to "Alzheimer's 'caused by cold sores'" (The Sun), "Eating more slowly 'cuts cancer risk'" (Daily Mail), "Legalise smart drugs for exams" and "To tame depression, try Buddhism on prescription" (both The Daily Telegraph) could produce some very perverse outcomes.