Friday, February 8, 2013

Governor Christie's Weight and How CNN Got It Terribly Wrong

Good for you, Guv!
In the course of its medical career, the Disease Management Care Blog has encountered a plethora of, um, let's refer to them as overnourished patients.  When the DMCB broached the issue, it typically confirmed what the peer-reviewed literature has shown: a large majority already knew they were fat.

Unfortunately, the literature also suggests physicians could do a better job of increasing awareness and combating unrealistic "dream BMIs" with education about the benefit of a modest 5% weight loss in reducing the medical risks that come with Governor Christie-style big belly.

And speaking of the Guv.....

Almost 600 persons who follow the DMCB on Twitter already saw this typically contrarian and provocative tweet.....

Does N.J Gov Christie's #obesity (  ) doom him? "Attributable risk" may say odds are in his favor

... where it was pointed out that there is good science that shows that being big adds a significant but an absolutely small degree of mortality risk

In other words, the likelihood that an obese person is going to keel over in any given day is quite remote.

That inconvenient fact, however, didn't stop former White House Medical Unit Director and physician Connie Mariano from proclaiming lurid warnings to the TV watching public about Mr. Christie's looming mortality on CNN ("I'm worried about this man dying in office!"). 

Predictably, the Governor, already aware of his girth, pushed back

And who can blame him? While Mr. Christie obviously knows he's big, is in the public domain and hasn't been shy about discussing his size, he has a point. The lack of a doctor-patient relationship with Dr. Mariano means she doesn't have access to his full medical history.  Mr. Christie argues that, despite his weight, he's still relatively healthy, which is very possible.  As pointed out in the science-backed tweet above, the statistical likelihood - based on weight alone - that New Jersey's Chief Executive is going to die anytime soon is quite small.

Dr. Mariano's factual ignorance is one thing, but enabling the CNN's unwitting paternalistic stigmatizing ("attempted to give himself a clean bill of health") of obese Americans is another. While physician attention to fatness is important, there is no shortage of good physician guidelines on how to broach the topic, provide a supportive environment and offer helpful counseling. While the DMCB thankfully didn't detect any overt "fatsim" in the talking-head doctor's commentary, it's no secret that negative stereotyping among physicians is all too common.

While even White House physicians can be forgiven for their naivete, the DMCB thinks our national media should be more responsible.  To those patients who watch CNN and rely on it for information about obesity, the DMCB suggests you may want to use your remote and punish news outlets when they descend into spectacles like this. 

We deserve better.

Image from Wikipedia

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