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Wonder Land: From Spin City to Fat City
Henninger uses our national obsession with “fat” (i.e., obesity) to make the point that public policy is often driven by scientific jingoism (like “preventable deaths”) rather than real science or even common sense.
The day the munching died is March 9, 2004, when the Journal of the American Medical Association gave its imprimatur to a study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control [CDC], announcing that "obesity" had caused 400,000 deaths in 2000, a whopping 33% increase from 1990. …Within months, HHS said it might let Medicare pay for "anti-obesity interventions," suggesting obesity was now officially an illness, which in turn would pressure all insurers to pay for weight-loss "interventions."
Later, the CDC’s fat facts melted away. It turned out that the CDC’s math was seriously flawed and that “the new number of obesity-related deaths” was not 400,000 but 26,000. Henninger says this should be a cautionary tale for the media and elected officials: crying wolf over every intellectual fad reduces public attention to really serious problems that require sustained attention.
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