“Catastrophizing parlance” about diabetes

Earlier today, I published a critique of a news story that was imbalanced in its reporting about pre-diabetes.  The story referred to a “national health crisis.”

In his weekly BMJ blog reviewing journals, Dr. Richard Lehman addressed other hyperbolic language used to describe Type 2 diabetes.  He wrote:

 In the catastrophizing parlance of the Lancet, type 2 diabetes is sometimes described as a “public health emergency.” If people must use this kind of language, they should really be more careful to distinguish between a challenge, a problem, a disaster, and an emergency. Describing the rise in type 2 diabetes as an emergency suits pharmaceutical companies because they want to sell drugs for diabetes without waiting for substantive proof of long term benefit. I have made this point so often that I will let you off for yawning. But what have we here? A systematic review of glucagon like peptide-1 receptor agonist and basal insulin combination treatment for the management of type 2 diabetes, which reads more like an advertising hoarding than a scientific paper. “GLP-1 agonist and basal insulin combination treatment can enable achievement of the ideal trifecta in diabetic treatment: robust glycaemic control with no increased hypoglycaemia or weight gain. This combination is thus a potential therapeutic strategy that could improve the management of patients with type 2 diabetes.” It’s so wonderful that they’ve even had to make up a new word to describe it. I think “trifecta” means something that has three effects, but there’s one fecta that counts above all in type 2 diabetes: reduction of vascular end points. And I excuse you a second yawn, but I just have to keep saying this as long as papers of this sort find their way into high impact journals.

Catastrophizing parlance – about national health crises, public health emergencies, etc.

That’s what we get in some medical journal articles.

That’s what we get in some journalism.

Is it any wonder we have the poor public dialogue that we have about health care? Read some of the reader comments left in response to the news story I mentioned at the top.  Some of what I saw:

  • “Why does everything have to be a crisis now?”
  • “Another crisis.  Who stands to benefit from this ‘crisis’?”


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