Did we tell you that the ‘’healthscare’’ industry is slowly but surely losing all credibility? Of course we did and when we read op-eds such as the one in the StarPhoenix today, we are both happy and sad to see reporters and citizens cautioning journalists and epidemiologists to get serious already! Happy because the day can’t be too far when real science will regain the place politicized science has stolen from it, sad because until then, people have no idea who and what to trust anymore when it comes to their personal well-being. The present public health system is sick and it needs a strong dose of cleansing to cure it from the parasite epidemic it has been afflicted with in the past couple of decades.
Call me a micro-mother, but I already have a future science fair project lined up for my three-year-old son. What I propose is a direct cross-cultural comparison of medical statistics that might put some of our health fixations into perspective.
The project would examine if Italians, for example, who lie for hours in the sun covered in tan-enhancing oil are succumbing to skin cancer at a comparatively higher rate. Or if Germans, many of whom refer to smoking as a "civil right," are in the throes of a lung cancer epidemic.
I suspect the answer is no. But I doubt such perspectives would moderate our national tunnel vision when it comes to health-related issues. Canadian health reporting is given wide journalistic latitude and alarmism is totally acceptable. That is, if we can figure out what we're supposed to be alarmed about.
Too often, we're hit with the horror headlines, only to discover that the full story is much less frightening. Before they call wolf, health journalists should exercise more caution, particularly when entire industries (such as canola, dairy and beef) are at stake. As for researchers, a bit of cultural compare-and-contrast might occasionally put things in perspective. Which brings me back to my science fair project. Does enjoying life and moderately partaking in some "unhealthy" habits have no benefits at all? Let's research that.
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