Health Messages Without Meaning

Surgeon General Richard Carmona is passionate in favor of prevention, global health initiatives, and fighting tobacco and AIDS. Yet the positive health messages coming from his self-described “bully pulpit” office are just those: messages — without meaning.

Although the science about tobacco, obesity and sexual health is clear, Carmona said in a speech today it his not his job to regulate and that “if society is armed with the appropriate information, we won’t need to regulate.”

But the restaurant, sugar, tobacco and alcohol lobbyists spend billions to control the information they think is appropriate, and washing your hands of responsibility only allows those with contaminated hands to manipulate the levers of regulatory policy.

As for the cost to society of a health system that spends more than any other in the world without better outcomes, he says, “It is foolish to debate who pays until we take responsibility for our own health.”

Carmona is a good guy who talks about prevention and health disparities as if he knows what needs to be done. But to be the good soldier in this administration, he is forced to blame the victim.

3 thoughts on “Health Messages Without Meaning”

  1. I remember when the FDA announced new labelling requirements for food products that required listing calories from fat as a percentage of total calories. That was to help people keep to the recommended guideline of less than 30% calories from fat.

    The junk food manufacturers lobbied heavily against it and got it removed.

  2. How much regulation is enough? Addressing the obesity issue, to what end should regulation push? Toward regulating what choices are available to consumers? Toward regulating what businesses are able to sell or how they make their goods?

    At a point, reasonable regulation must step back and the message – as enacted by the people – must be effected. I think was the Surgeon General is doing is recognizing that regulation is not going to solve health problems that are grounded in issues of personal responsibility, even if they are epedemiological problems.

    Now, this would be different if we were talking about problems akin to the polio problem or influenza. There, it’s less a question of interfering with the free choice of citizens (a value which this democracy is designed to maximize) and more a question of avoiding what the law would consider to be a public nuisance or police power issue.

    In other words, no matter how right health experts may be, they may not be followed in instances where it is politically better or “more just” to allow for “wrong” decisions by the people.

    TPB, Esq.
    http://www.thosedarktrees.com/blog
    tpb3jd “at” gmail.com

  3. The priority health concern now is climate change. Lou Dobbs of CNN is currently doing shows about climate change. Science on a shelf is dangerous. Every effort must be made to educate the public and get them involved in forcing government to deal with the problem of Global Warming.

    Tom Bulger

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