Monday, January 26, 2009

Wheel Spinning

If you’ve watched the evening news or a weekly new magazine over the course of the last few years you might have noticed at least once in every broadcast they have a story about people’s health. If you breakdown a typical evening new broadcast this segment usually airs second. For example a skeleton of a NBC, ABC, or CBS Evening News might look something like this:

Segment I - Political story previously with anti-Bush slant

Commercial Break I – uninterrupted string of male enhancement pill commercials (i.e. Viagra, Cialis, etc)

Segment II – Story to scare you to death about your health based on a preposterous correlation study or experiment which nets a simple answer like “Drugs are bad”.

Commercial Break II- more male enhancement pill commercials occasionally broken up with a commercial for a cholesterol reducing pharmaceutical or my personal favorite Flomax, a product that I believe makes it easier for old guys to take a leak, with a commercial that has two Jack Lemmon look-a-likes all laughs and smiles toasting water bottles in celebration while driving thru the desert

Segment III- A puff piece personal interest story intended to make all the women in the room collectively go, “Awww…”. These type of stories tend to feature babies, puppies, and small animals.

Obviously there is a need to talk about all the pharmaceutical drug commercials (rest assured there is definitely enough for a future entry) but it’s that segment two I want to focus on for right now. I understand there are a number of reasons why the news departments run health related stories like this. For one baby boomers, the largest sect of the population, is slowly getting to the age where are very concerned about health, aging, and wellbeing. Also, because of the modern media, with constant live internet updates, these taped segments have become vital because airing the news of the day would be rout with redundancy. That’s all fine. But there isn’t a huge medical breakthrough every night! There aren’t enough major medical revelations to account for a daily segment. I’m no expert but a lot of this research doesn’t really seem designed to find out anything new, to break barriers in medical research, but rather to prove what previous studies (and common sense for that matter) already point to. For instance I was watching 60 Minutes the other night and they had some piece on about the health benefits of different types of living. They interviewed a half a dozen different doctors and researchers from two or three different independent studies. One of the groups studied mice, another human beings, and another studied a group of chimps over 27 years! Brilliant doctors and researchers spent millions upon millions of dollars on these studies. They set up space age looking high tech sterile labs where they could control all unmeasured variables. They spent countless hours in the lab monitoring the most minute differences and details. Killed god knows how many little mice and chimps. Do you what the conclusion of all this time and money spent was: obesity is most likely riskier to your health than being fit. Or even simpler obesity = bad. Hallelujah! Am I taking crazy pills here? Isn’t this common sense? Then I got thinking about the doctors themselves. These are brilliant men. They were most likely top of their Ivy League graduation classes, top of their medical schools, and now are highly regarded medical researchers and scientists. They should be out solving more complex problems than this. Instead they’re killing a boatload of mice with donuts. Fabulous. One of the last scenes they showed was this one doctor observing and taking notes on this chubby little mouse running on a tiny treadmill. I was left wondering which one of them is really spinning his wheels?

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