GOOD NEWS ON HEART DISEASE: OH NO!

Last Fall, I linked to a post by Jeff Goldsmith in which he issued the following complaint:

Good news about our health system …  has become politically incorrect in a climate of Job’s Daughter handwringing and crisis mongering.

Anyone doubting the accuracy of Goldsmith’s assertion can find a classic example of the phenomenon in a recent USA Today article containing great news about deaths from heart disease and strokes:

New government data show that heart disease death rates dropped 25.8% between 1999 and 2005, from 195 to 144 deaths for every 100,000 people, surpassing the AHA’s 25% target reduction. Stroke deaths dropped 24.4%, from 61 to 47 deaths per 100,000.

And this no dry statistic of interest only to people with spread sheets and actuarial tables:

That adds up to roughly 160,000 lives saved in 2005, Jones says. If the trend holds, the AHA projects that as many as 240,000 lives may be saved this year.

But the article’s author and the President of the AHA were apparently both uncomfortable with delivering so much good news. So, together, they produced the following black cloud for the silver lining:

‘But epidemics of diabetes, obesity and inactivity, along with widespread racial, economic and geographic differences in access to care, threaten those gains,’ warns AHA President Daniel Jones.

These people are so invested in the “ain’t it awful” school of faux-seriousness that they are unable to enjoy good news—and 240,00 saved lives IS GOOD NEWS—without feeling guilty.

It’s just too neurotic. 

Comments 3

  1. DrRich wrote:

    I entirely agree with you that good news about healthcare is about as welcome in today’s classic media as is good news about the war in Iraq or global warming.

    However, keep in mind that the AHA’s main mission is to generate millions of dollars in research funds, and that to do so, a fine balance must be struck between touting success in combating heart disease, and stressing that heart disease remains a scourge on society.

    For example, a couple of years ago when the American Cancer Society proudly proclaimed cancer to be the # 1 killer, the AHA rapidly countered that, no, cardiovascular disease still kills more Americans than anything else. (They did this by including stroke and all manner of other vascular conditions.) To this day the pissing match (“mine is bigger”) continues. Fund raising, it appears, demands a continual crisis, so you will never hear one of these medical organizations declaring victory.

    Posted 28 Jan 2008 at 1:03 pm
  2. Catron wrote:

    “Fund raising, it appears, demands a continual crisis …”

    Good point.

    Posted 28 Jan 2008 at 4:27 pm
  3. drmatt wrote:

    Dont forget that the vital stats come from death certificates, and it has been amply proven that us docs are terrible at figuring cause of death. In a study where hundreds of autopsies where performed after the death certificate was filled out, it was discovered that we were wrong 90% of the time.

    Posted 30 Jan 2008 at 5:08 pm

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