Friday, July 31, 2009

Is This Guy F**king Crazy?

ladies and gentleman, please meet paul campos. mr. campos is the author of a book called "the obesity myth", which from what i can tell, makes the argument that obesity is not a public health issue at all. that thesis is so outrageous on its face that it actually makes the birthers look sane (only in comparison...the birthers are still batshit crazy).

based on the quick and dirty from amazon, there is one argument that i do agree with that BMI is a horrible statistic. there is nothing wrong with calculating BMI, per se, i just think the formula is off. my BMI is on the high end of where it should be, and i am tipping the scales a little bit higher than i would like to right now, but in no way am i in danger of being obese. based on the current BMI formula, i bet 90% of professional athletes would be considered overweight or obese, but guys who play in the NBA who are 6'3", 205 lbs (my height/weight) are not overweight: they are solid rock.

but back to the point. this moron campos did an interview with megan mcardle of the atlantic about the obesity myth. in the interview he said "The correlations between higher weight and greater health risk are weak except at statistical extremes. The extent to which those correlations are causal is poorly established. There is literally not a shred of evidence that turning fat people into thin people improves their health. And the reason there's no evidence is that there's no way to do it." is he fucking kidding me? there is no evidence that being fat is bad for your health? really?

reading further down the interview it seems that his main argument is slightly off-base. his argument is with the BMI, which as i said before, i agree that the BMI is meaningless, not because the BMI itself isn't a useful statistic its just that the formula used to calculate the BMI seems off.

campos just seems like another one of these right-wing assholes (without actually knowing his ideology) who doesn't think that governmental policy can change behavior and influence outcomes. megan poses a simple question:
What should we do instead if we want to reduce health care costs? Here are some proposed ideas I've heard:
  • Taxes on soda
  • New urbanism (make people walk more)
  • Bring back physical education in schools
  • Make gym memberships tax deductible
  • Menu labelling.
Will any of these make us healthier, if not thinner? And if not, what will?
campos answered:
Some of those ideas may have merit independent of whether they'll make people thinner (they won't). It's good to encourage physical activity, but NOT if the purpose of encouraging it is to try to make people thinner. Then it's counter-productive. People will be healthier if they're more active and don't smoke and if they avoid eating disordered behavior (like dieting in particular).

But Americans are actually very healthy and getting healthier all the time, despite the massive inefficiencies and dysfunctions of our health care system.
how can one argue that new urbanism, which encourages daily walking, won't make people thinner, which on the balance will make people healthier? same for bringing back phys ed. and menu labeling helps people make smart choices about what to eat. new york's experiment in menu labeling i think is great. i love having nutritional info in front of me when eating out (although, i have to say that i rarely go into chain restaurants which are the only ones required to post this info, so its impact on me is slightly limited). and a soda tax? i'm all for it. we tax the shit out of beer and cigarettes, so why not soda? soda leads to unhealthy outcomes and therefore its true cost to society goes unrealized. people complain that this is government interfering in daily choice. this is untrue. it is more accurate pricing of a good. soda is negatively impacting society, like carbon, and needs to be priced. look at what increasing cigarette taxes has done. almost no other crop, save for maybe cotton and cord, has had the impact on our history that tobacco has had, but yet it is not a right to be able to smoke tobacco (full disclosure: i am not arguing that tobacco should be banned. adults can make their own decisions. it just has to be accurately price to reflect its true cost on society). drinking soda is the same...its not a right, its a privilege.

but to claim that we do not have an obesity problem in this country is nonsense. obesity leads to a whole host of health issues from diabetes to heart disease and those people are driving up health care costs. i want to scream when i see fat-ass little kids drinking soda, eating chips and other crap who obviously have never exercised in their life. they are the people who are going to have serious health problems when they grow up. no one can argue otherwise. if your issue is with the BMI, fine. but dont confuse the point: obesity is bad for you. we need to find a new statistic, whether it is a new BMI or otherwise, to accurately measure this so we can predict its impact on health and costs in the health care system.

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