Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Scared to death.

Scaring people, of course, being the operative idea here. Patient advocacy groups such as the American Cancer Society have long believed that the way to improve the nation's health is to increase "awareness" of this or that disease, and the best way to increase awareness is to frighten people into their doctors' offices. As early as 1936, the American Cancer Society was using slogans like "No one is safe from cancer" in an effort to get women to go in for a breast exam.

Today, patient-advocacy groups routinely sound the alarm about whatever condition they're trying to eradicate, either by inflating the number of people affected or by exaggerating the danger. The
National Sleep Foundation, for example, a group dedicated to encouraging Americans to get more rest, recently released a poll claiming that a whopping 75 percent of us are so sleep-deprived that it's interfering with our sex lives. That's one heck of a lot of sleepy, undersexed people, and it's pretty hard to believe, given that the National Institutes of Health find that at most 21 percent of the population has recurrent insomnia. A few years back, at least one breast cancer patient advocacy group was claiming their disease as the No. 1 killer of women. In reality, far more women die of heart disease, followed by lung cancer.

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