Say it ain’t so
If you follow this blog’s Facebook page, you probably saw the little blurb I put up over the weekend. I photographed part of a page out of Diabetes Forecast, the magazine published by the American Diabetes Association. As I see it, this is a respectable organization; there are no lies, ulterior motives, or deep discounts on snake oil from them. If they say it, I tend to believe it.
But in September’s issue, right there on page 20, was the bold headline that you see above. The paragraph that follows was quite disturbing, and generated a bit of discussion under the Facebook post.
The online version of the story, with the same content but a headline slightly modified to read “INACTIVE KIDS HAVE HIGHER TYPE 1 RISK” is available for all to read — if you dare. With respect to the magazine’s copyright, I won’t copy the entire piece here, but the first sentence just about sums it up:
That is the very myth that we’ve been trying to bust. And we vow to continue tearing down that misconception every day. Forever and ever, amen.
We’ve know of athletic kids who’ve developed Type 1. We’ve seen inactive kids escape it. Kids who are too young even to walk get diagnosed. Then there are adults, teens, parents, athletes, and so on. T1D doesn’t discriminate.
But it was reported by the American Diabetes Association, and they cite a seemingly legitimate (albeit limited in scope) study. So it has to be true, right?
When I first read this piece, I didn’t immediately dismiss it as, to borrow a term from one of the Facebook comments, bullhonkey. My first thought was “Holy crap. You mean the stupid, ignorant ones were right and we were wrong? How can we show our faces in public again?” I mean, consider the source.
Sure, the study is based on an average. And one exceptional case can skew an average to the point where it no longer represents the group it claims to depict. I don’t know where to find information on this study (and I don’t know if I’d understand it if I did find it), but I’d rather see a Trident-like “four-out-of-five” statement than an average. I wonder if that information is available.
In other words, data can be presented honestly, but manipulated to tell a completely dishonest story.
Is this story dishonest? I don’t know. I don’t want to lose faith in an organization that I trust, but at the same time I’m ready to start my toddler with a three- mile run on the treadmill every day if it will help to keep the big-D away.
Yes, I know Forecast is just the messenger, but I wish there were some more thought put behind the choice to deliver it.
I just don’t know what to think or who to believe. Thoughts?