How and Who Do We Trust?

By Erica Bock

The first two weeks of this course really allowed me to develop thoughts on why America’s public health seems to be less than satisfactory. There were three main issues that came to my mind. Firstly, how does the public know what is healthy? Secondly, if something is healthy for one individual, does that mean it is healthy for everyone? And Lastly, who creates common stigmas around diseases and why are they so affective?

It has occurred to me that the general public, primarily the lower middle class and the impoverished which make up the bulk of population are shaped to believe anything low in fat, low in carbohydrates, or low in calories is considered “healthy”. This is because of the mass amount of food advertisements that an individual sees on a daily basis. The processed and “junk” foods often being advertised are not only more easily accessible to all people, but also less expensive. Regardless if this is factual or not, the general public seems to abide by it. Because of the current obesity epidemic, these foods that seem to prevent the gaining of weight seem to be the “healthy” option. However, this compromises the amount of necessary nutrients that an individual needs, thus causing many future health problems. Because such a small amount of advertisers and officials actually explain this, the eating of unhealthy food becomes a burdening cycle due to the population’s ignorance. This ultimately leads to the question, “Which advertisers should we trust?”

Secondly, if a certain food is considered “okay” or healthy for one individual, how do we validate whether it is healthy for all individuals? Doctors, researchers and dietitians are well-versed in many of the common diseases that occur in our communities today (diabetes, obesity, heart disease, cancer, lung disease, etc.). Unfortunately, this knowledge is not transferred to the many people that have these diseases. From noticing both the media and those around me, I have realized that most people tend to believe that “everything is fine in moderation” or “if someone else does it, then it must be okay for all of us”. However, I believe this to be untrue. Doritos and Hostess snack Cakes may be an okay Sunday treat for an athlete who eats very well during the other six days of the week. But would this be okay for an obese diabetic who eats less than satisfactory the other six days of the week? No. If we stray away from the topic of food, a second example could be smoking a cigar. For a physically fit and well eating individual, an occasional cigar tasting may be okay to their health, but would it be okay if this person was asthmatic? No. But how is all of this measured? By numbers? By facts? Ultimately, how do we trust statistics when everyone’s health status is different?

Lastly, this course has made me realize that society has created many negative stigmas around diseases that cause many illnesses to be talked about less than they should be. It makes me wonder how these stigmas were developed. For example, many people go out of their way to support those with cancer which is a very caring act. However, people tend to ignore or judge those with mental illness for fear of embarrassment or being made fun of. If an illness is an illness is an illness, then why should the quality of treatment by the public differ depending on the disease? Are these stigmas dated by the advancement of science? They surely aren’t based on facts.  However, from the media and my own interaction with the public, an individual with cancer is more likely to receive sympathy than would an individual with depression. I am imagining the positive effects that more sympathetic caring toward those with depression could result in. While cancer and mental illness aren’t the only diseases that have societal generated stigmas surrounding them, I am wondering how stigmas change the care of sick people around us. Which stigmas can we trust to be true and which can’t we?






6 thoughts on “How and Who Do We Trust?

  1. Please update this post with your full name, author.


  2. I really like the way your article starts with a bold statement, recognizing that America’s views on health aren’t perfect. The thought-provoking analysis for the three questions that were asked in the beginning of the article are articulated very well within the reading. After reading the article, I can agree that America’s public health is in fact “les than satisfactory”.


  3. I completely understand what you are saying in terms of the validations of certain foods and habits in terms of how the statistics on them don’t seem to pertain to actual individuals, but that very word… statistic. I also follow your commentary on disease stigma with interest, and while I whole heartedly agree that America’s public health is less the satisfactory I don’t agree that the topics you mentioned are solely and american problem. I have spent parts of my life living in India, Ireland, and Germany and can say with confidence these issues are brightly reflected in other cultures. From food advertisements to stigmas and validations about certain things I see this as not an american CDC or FDA issue, but a world wide epidemic toward health. Yes, some cultures are “healthier” then others, but the move toward removing the veil on health on what is right and wrong needs to be a more international one across cultures and lifestyles, at least in my humble opinion.

    ~Asha Brogan


  4. The idea that there are certain food that are okay to eat is a true one. One thing that should really be addressed is the cultural aspect. While can it is true that someone who is athletically active can probably have a unhealthy snack from time to time and a person who is obese should cut down on having said snack. the average person who is neither still has to understand and be willing to learn about these foods. One example I like to bring up is pork. America is a society where all types of pork such as bacon and sausages are widely accepted and eaten without a second thought.Even the average non obese man or woman can still contract cardiovascular issues or cancer because they eat it more then other countries. And again this is because of all the different commercials and different types of media that show people that bacon is great. This is just on example is America. In Pakistan, people eat cultural food high is oil and starch which probably is the cause for the sharp increase in obesity. So it more or less the culture and the environment that cause people to ignore these obvious issues around the world.

    Usamah Ali


  5. Your post kept my attention due to your three questions at the beginning. I also agree with the statement of supporting people with cancer but not being vocal about supporting people with mental illness. Not much money or research has gone into the study for any type of mental illness, only for the big names such as schizophrenia or PTSD. The other types of mental disorders have been put on the back-burner and won’t even be covered by majority of insurances.

    – Tarah Klenk


  6. Many great points were brought up in this post and the main point that stood out for me was what is healthy and is it healthy for you? Like you said many people blindly agree or trust advertisements or fad diets thinking they are healthy. Or, people tend to make excuses for themselves to indulge in something unhealthy like only eating unhealthy foods on a Sunday. Plus, on top of all of this, everyone is different and everyone has different health problems. That’s why i think that there can’t be any one way to measure or generalize health. Instead it should be based more on an individual standpoint with more emphasis on individuals being responsible for their health. However, this may be a pipe dream because there are so many people in this world and so many people who just don’t care about their health or don’t have the means to. Hopefully, more and more people can get access to ideas on what a healthy lifestyle could be and customize it to their individual needs, ideas of whats healthy for them, and desires.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s