Well, my post on justifiable skepticism (Paranoia is just good sense if people actually are out to get you) certainly was the big winner for traffic/comments this week. I was happy to see that…I had a lot of fun putting that graph together and thought the outcomes were pretty striking. Thanks to Maggie’s Farm for linking to it.
It was my post on food deserts however, that got me the most IRL comments. Both my mother and my brother commented on it, and not terrifically positively. In retrospect, I wasn’t very clear about the points I was trying to make, though to be fair I had spent a lot of the day on an airplane.
My issue with food desert research, or any similar research, is that what we’re really talking about is a proposed proximate cause to a larger issue: obesity. In my experience, just having people tell you why they think something’s happening, isn’t good enough to prove that’s the actual reason. Thus my quibble with much of the theorizing about obesity problems….you have to make sure that what you’re theorizing is the cause is actually the cause (or one of the causes) before you start dumping money in to it. You cannot make the middle man the holy grail if you haven’t established that it’s really a cause.
Unfortunately, people love to jump on good ideas before truly establishing this link.
Example: A few years ago, it was discovered that 22% of school children were eating vending machine food. This school had an obesity problem, the food in the vending machines was unhealthy, so a push began to remove vending machines from schools. Schools balked, as they make money from vending machines, but the well being of children came first…..until of course this study came out proving that reducing access to vending machines didn’t actually effect obesity rates. Oops.
It’s really a simple logic exercise…proving that kids are (a) obese and (b) eating from vending machines does not actually prove that getting rid of (b) will reduce (a).
That’s why I liked the research in to the difference food deserts make in obesity. It’s a question that needs to be asked more often when trying to address a large issue: are we sure that the issue we’re trying to address will actually help the issue we were concerned about it the first place???
If you haven’t established that it will, then be careful with how you proceed. Addressing food deserts (or vending machines or whatever) is a means to an end, and you shouldn’t confuse it with the end itself…unless you have really good data backing you up.