July 18, 2011
Something I have become conscious about in the last few years is the importance of reviewing the background of information that is presented to you. It’s important to become critical of data and want to know where it has come from, how it was produced and what influences may have been placed on the creation of the data.
I learned very early with computers the GIGO principle – Garbage In, Garbage Out. It doesn’t matter how good a computer is, or how good the software is. If what you put into it is tainted, or skewed, or wrong, what comes out of it will be tainted, skewed or wrong. This principle applies to scientific research, news and other information just as much as computers.
I think it is important to analyse information that is presented to me. I think the Australian media should do a better job of getting facts right and making sure that what is reported isn’t biased or at least mentioning any conflicts of interest that people interviewed may have.
I’ve been in the media a couple of times to talk about being fat and the discrimination against fat people. It might be fair to suggest that I am biased, and perhaps even some people who see me on these programs would think that. The thought could run across someone’s mind that I am against fat discrimination and believe in fat acceptance, health at every size and other principles only because I am fat. “Perhaps he should just stop complaining and put down the fork” might be a response from some people in the community.
When a doctor or academic talks about these sorts of things, it might be fair to think that there would not be any bias. They are there to take information and make informed decisions that are based on the facts in front of them. Why would there be any need for them to promote fat acceptance or weight loss? If an academic says that a fat person can be healthy, or that childhood obesity is on the rise, there doesn’t seem to be a need to question it.
Yet I think that everything should be questioned.
For example it was reported back in 2008 that childhood obesity rates are not rapidly increasing as per the media scare campaigns. Yet we are still bombarded in the media with the message that kids are getting fatter and fatter.
Which was the main point put across in a story on Today Tonight called Obese Kids. Such an original title. But I’m getting petty.
The obesity expert presented this evening was Dr George Hopkins. He talked about how obesity was on the rise in children and the types of medical issues that obese children could look forward to later in life, like Type II Diabetes, Heart Disease, and even increased risk of Cancer! Yup, the big C. I’ve never seen that one used before but there is probably some research out there that supports this view.
He also went on to talk about how he was having great success rates with bariatric surgery on kids up to 13 or 14 years old. 13 or 14 years old. I couldn’t help but scream at the television. I’m not a doctor, but I am a human. I can’t imagine how someone that young could be in the right state of mind to make a decision about bariatric surgery which has so many repercussions in later life.
So who is this Dr Hopkins, obesity expert? Well Dr Hopkins is a bariatric surgeon (surprise!) who runs the Brisbane Gastric Banding Centre. He has a link to the LAP-BAND® website as the second and third links on his links page. His first link is to the Obesity Surgery Society of Australia and New Zealand (OSSANZ), of which he is a member..
I suppose that it would make sense to link to your professional body on your website when you are a member. If you wish to know who sponsors OSSANZ, you need to email them. I didn’t bother, but in a submission to the 2008 Australian House of Representatives’ Inquiry into Obesity in Australia, Coviden made a submission which included the following paragraph:
In Australia, Covidien has been closely involved in supporting the work of bariatric surgeons treating obesity and its co-morbidities since 1996. Our early commitment to this important field of surgery began by working with a small group of surgeons to help grow the Obesity Surgery Society of Australia and New Zealand (OSSANZ) to the point where it now has membership of approximately 150 bariatric surgeons. Throughout the last 12 years, Covidien has also been responsible for supporting the training of many General and Gastro Intestinal surgeons in the latest techniques used in the rapidly advancing field of metabolic surgery.
Who are Coviden? Well Coviden and Allergan joined forces in 2007 to co-promote Allergan’s LAP-BAND® Adjustable Gastric Banding System. So presumably they would be quite for lap banding procedures. And I’m sure that Coviden would not provide OSSANZ with any support for research into lap banding. (Well I’m not sure either way).
Oh, I forgot to also mention that you can find Dr Hopkins through the website “Gastric Banding Procedure” which just happens to be run by Allergan. Take a look at the site. Unless you knew that Allergan wast the company that made the LAP-BAND®, you would think it was a general information site. Surely there is no agenda there.
This story is a beat up and just a promotion by people who stand to make a large amount of money by having kids sent to them to have bariatric surgery. This makes me mad.
A little sidenote is that the Today Tonight website links to Baker IDI. You would hope that they are a completely unbiased organisation. Well let’s look into that.
The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) Taskforce on Epidemiology and Prevention of Diabetes released a paper called Bariatric surgery: an IDF statement for obese Type 2 diabetes.
Professor Paul Zimmet was one of the authors on this paper. The paper notes: “PZ has received a consulting fee from Covidien Australia.” He is also Director Emeritus and Director of International Research, Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute and Professor (Hon) Monash University.
Associate Professor John Dixon was another author on this paper. He is Associate Professor, Department of General Practice, School of Primary Health Care, Monash University and Senior clinical scientist, Human Neurotransmitters Laboratory, Vascular & Hypertension Unit, Baker IDI Heart & Diabetes Institute. In the paper it notes that “JD is a consultant for: Allergan Inc, manufacturer of the LapBand System®; Metagenics, manufacturer of Bariatric Advantage® nutritional supplements; and Scientific Intake, manufacturer of the SMART® device. […] His institutions, Monash University and Baker IDI Heart & Diabetes Institute, have received support for his research from Allergan Inc, […].”
No, surely they aren’t getting money from the companies who sell the very same products that their research promotes and recommends? This should be an outrage! But it isn’t. The media don’t ever look at it. They don’t care.
So I say that it is important to make my voice heard. Even one small voice can make a difference. Hugh props to Dr Samantha Thomas and Frances Lockie for standing up for the rights of fat people and telling it how it is, without corporate backing.