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Overweight in America

Rating

1 Star

Overweight in America

Our Review Summary

This is a very unbalanced story touting the benefits of one particular weight loss surgery for use in children for whom it has not been approved.  

The underlying assumption in this story is that although the procedure is drastic, it is in the end, good for the patient. In fact, Katie Couric says just that in her summary comment:  "it does seem pretty drastic, but good work for her, right?" The answer may be  "No." There is general agreement among weight loss experts that more thought and study needs to go into examining the long term consequences of the procedure, especially for younger patients.  There was little data given to support any of the claims made in the story. 

The story mentioned perforation of the stomach and malfunction of the band as complications of the procedure, though it did not provide any information on the frequency with which these complications occur.  Further the story failed to mention that there have not been long-term studies following the use of this device in children.  Although the story did mention that 1 in 300 adults who have had this procedure ask for reversal, it didn't examine why this was the case.  The suggestion was made that this was to return to old eating habits, although no data was supplied to support this contention.  In addition and perhaps more to the point, these were rates in adults and the story was about the use of this weight loss procedure in children.  There are no data available from which to determine whether the requests for reversal in children would be more or less common.

The story included a statement that "one in 15 American children are obese enough to need this operation."  Though there are children who are sufficiently obese to be considered candidates for this procedure if they were adults, it is simply not true that it is essential for them to have this particular procedure while teens.

In addition, there was additional disease mongering in the opening of this story when Katie Couric mentioned that "Pediatricians say thery're even seeing early stage of heart disease in some of their youngest patients."  This statement is unsupported and therefore unhelpful.

Finally, the story never mentioned the necessity for calorie reduction and weight loss after implantation of this device.

Viewers deserve a more thoughtful approach to the medical issue of obesity in children.  This was more like a one-sided promotion of surgery and use of a medical device in this vulnerable group.

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

The story mentioned that the cost of the procedure for the person highlighted in the story was $20,000.  There was no discussion about cost effectiveness, only the claim that it is the only treatment that works for the morbidly obese.  There was no mention about the costs associated with other approaches to treatment of obesity.

Does the story adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Satisfactory

Other than the mention that this particular surgical procedure is "the only treatment that works" and that most of the teen patients of one particular surgeon lose 60% of their excess weight in the first year, there was no quantitative estimate of benefit. 

Does the story adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

The story mentioned perforation of the stomach and malfunction of the band as complications of the procedure, though it did not provide any information on the frequency with which these complications occur.  Further the story failed to mention that there have not been long-term studies following the use of this device in children.  Although the story did mention that 1 in 300 adults who have had this procedure ask for reversal, it didn't examine why this was the case.  The suggestion was made that this was to return to old eating habits, although no data was supplied to support this contention.  In addition and perhaps more to the point, these were rates in adults and the story was about the use of this weight loss procedure in children.  There are no data available from which to determine whether the requests for reversal in children would be more or less common. 

Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?

Not Satisfactory

This story was not based on study results but instead presented human interest stories where the two people talked about their weight loss following implantation of this medical device.  The story talked about one of these patients, mentioning that along with his weight loss, he has "dropped his odds of serious health issues like diabetes aand heart disease" without including any information about what his risks were prior to weight loss and what exactly his risks were now that he had lost the weight he has to date.

 These are examples of inadequate presentation of evidence. 

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Not Satisfactory

The story included a statement that "one in 15 American children are obese enough to need this operation."  Though there are children who are sufficiently obese to be considered candidates for this procedure if they were adults, it is simply not true that it is essential for them to have this particular procedure while teens.

In addition, there was additional disease mongering in the opening of this story when Katie Couric mentioned that "Pediatricians say thery're even seeing early stage of heart disease in some of their youngest patients."  This statement is unsupported and therefore unhelpful.

Does the story use independent sources and identify conflicts of interest?

Not Satisfactory

This story was unbalanced perhaps largely because it relied so heavily on just one surgeon at just one medical center discussing just one treatment option.  There was little time given to the important issues about the use of this sort of treatment in this particular group of patients.   Although Dr. William Dietz of the CDC was allowed a single sentence, it would have been much better to allow him to express these thoughts more completely.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

Other than something said briefly by one interviewee about her having tried to lose weight with exercise and diet, there was no mention of options available to people for weight loss.

Does the story establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Satisfactory

 There was no discussion about how commonly this form of weight loss surgery is performed on children, or where.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Satisfactory

While the device mentioned in the story is not new, its use in children is a relatively recent phenomenon.

Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release?

Not Applicable

We can't be sure if the story relied solely or largely on a news release, although it did feature the work of only one surgeon at only one medical center.

Total Score: 1 of 9 Satisfactory

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