Excellent piece, putting the “problem” of head lice in perspective and raising questions about efficacy of preventive shampoos.
One company spokeswoman asks, if the products didn’t work, “why would we have such a large following of repeat customers?”
The story clearly asks that same question, citing lack of evidence to show that perhaps the answer is: fear and lack of consumer information. We don’t know which children are simply not exposed to lice and would not get them anyway.
$150 million in annual sales for products of unknown effectiveness: that’s why this matters. If these products were proven effective, it might be another story.
The story includes the cost of some of the products in question.
The story makes it clear that benefits of the lice control products have not been established.
With its clear questioning of the evidence for lice control products, the story infers the harm of spending money on unproven products.
The story includes some things parents may not have known:
“Some public-health experts and school nursing groups are skeptical about the lice-prevention products, citing a lack of formal evidence. The National Association of School Nurses says in a position paper to its members that, based on several research pediatric, dermatology and nursing journal articles, the preventive products have presented “little scientific evidence regarding the effectiveness.”
“There are lots of things that work in the lab, but not in the field,” says John Clark, a University of Massachusetts professor of veterinary and animal sciences.
No disease-mongering. To the contrary, it shoots down some of the estimates of the size of the problem:
“Richard Pollack, an entomology instructor and insect expert at the Harvard School of Public Health, estimates that only about 200,000 elementary-school students actually get head lice each year, rather than the six to 12 million children from the CDC’s 1997 estimates. In an email, a CDC spokeswoman said its figures were based on sales of head-lice treatments, noting a report by the American Academy of Pediatrics published last year that said the totals were most likely an overestimation.”
The story includes the question of whether the lice control products are any more effective than regular shampoos and conditioners. It also mentions that girls can keep wear their hair “up and tight.”
The story includes the staggering sales figures of prescription and over the counter lice control products – totaling more than $151 million last year – making availability quite clear.
No claims of novelty were made.
It’s clear that this story involved independent enterprise reporting.