Junkfood Science: Do parents really not want to be “allowed” to opt out of BMI screenings of their children?

July 06, 2008

Do parents really not want to be “allowed” to opt out of BMI screenings of their children?

A writer wonders why people are blindly falling into lockstep behind federal programs that are making the prevention of childhood obesity a national public health priority. It can sure feel that way as that seems to be all we hear. But is it true?

As Karen DeCoster writes:

Brits: We Want Government to Plan Our Childrens' Lives

What a sad statement about people. The fact that we — as well as the Brits and Aussies, etc. — live beneath the footprint of an omnipotent state is no mistake. The masses never fail to embrace the central planners and their agenda for body and mind control.

Parents are supporting the Government's intended plans to change whether parents are told if their child is obese, but want the plans to go even further than those currently proposed. In a study of Child Obesity to be launched next week by Havas media agency MPG, 9-in-10 parents (89%) believe the government should actively tell parents if their child is obese. This is in line with present government intentions. However, 7-in-10 parents (72%) believe parents should NOT be allowed to opt out of being told if their child is obese...

How much of those parental sentiments are actually real, though?

As we know, a survey of parents conducted by a media marketing agency is not scientific research. What is it? [All together now...] Marketing!

Surveys or polls are one of the oldest marketing techniques used to shape public opinions by creating the bandwagon effect. How questions are worded and ordered, who is polled and how the answers are interpreted can create any perception a pollster may desire, all to promote whatever idea they’re trying to sell and convince us of. The bandwagon effect especially takes advantage of people who don’t understand science or feel able to think for themselves and who will look to see what everyone else is thinking or doing when making up their own minds about what to believe or do. It’s why generations of mothers have told their children: “If everyone else is jumping off a bridge, that doesn’t mean you should, too!”

Surveys are not studies done by independent, objective research firms, but paid marketing for clients. This news story was taken directly from a press release, and the ‘study’ was actually a survey done by MPG in the UK, a social media marketing company and major supplier of media intelligence for its clients.

MPG has offices in 91 countries and, using Radian6 web technology, it monitors all forms of social media online and tracks what’s being said about its clients’ brands and political issues, and helps them find ways to influence conversations and marketing placement to have a greater online impact. MGP is part of Havas, one of the world’s largest global marketing communications groups. Earlier this year, they also partnered with TNS Media Intelligence, the leading provider of advertising intelligence and web-based monitoring system and database, tracking more than 2.8 million brands.

MPG surveys are not taken from randomized samples, representative of the population, either. They have a member research panel of about 100 families, each with a webcam set up for video webchats and a blog where they can comment on questions from MPG. If it’s like the Harris online polls conducted for its marketing clients, survey participants get points and cash rewards.

We can only imagine how the poll questions were phrased, too. This MPG poll on child obesity also claimed that, 3-to-1, parents agreed they wanted BMI guidelines from the government on their children. Now, stop and think. How many parents do you know who are that enamored by BMIs, let alone even know what they are (weight in kilograms to the square of height in meters)?

In this case, we’re told that 89% of parents believe the government should tell parents if their child is “obese” and 72% believe they should not be allowed to opt out. How many parents really believe that, do you think? The message we’re meant to take away from this poll is: “All the other parents are behind the government’s obesity program, they must know something you don’t. You’ll embarrass yourself and be the oddball out if you opt out.” In other words, it’s futile to protest or speak out as it’s already the majority opinion.

More disturbing is the larger message: that a government agency knows better than you how to take care of your child.

Did you know that the government’s National Child Measurement Programme currently has an “active opt-in” program (where parents have to request the BMIs), but the government is working to change legislation so that they will get it automatically, and parents would have to actively “opt-out.” So, how much was this ‘study of child obesity’ just trying to create the public perception of support for this legislation and nationalized program?

We’ve seen polls being used before to try and convince the public that parents are blind to their children’s “poor diets” and weight “problems” and that they need to support BMI screenings and be told when their child is too fat. We also saw what was really going on when our Centers for Disease Control and Prevention claimed that most parents here supported their child’s BMI be measured by state school personnel and screened for obesity. [BTW, parents do still have the right, at least for now, to opt out of letting State school personnel assess their children’s BMIs.] And we’ve seen the absurdity of the government’s idea of obesity in normal growing children and why so many parents don’t buy the notion that their child is fat or a public health crisis.

As Karen DeCoster goes on to observe: “In America, there are many folks who would love to nationalize the obesity ‘crisis’ and its various ‘solutions.’” One of the key players behind efforts to nationalize a crisis of our modern diets and lifestyles continues to fund Institute of Medicine’s reports on childhood obesity and its action plans for far reaching proposals, never mind the complete lack of scientific evidence behind their proposals. As she quotes from a 2004 IOM report:

Just as broad-based approaches have been used to address other public health concerns—including automobile safety and tobacco use—obesity prevention should be public health in action at its broadest and most inclusive level. Prevention of obesity in children and youth should be a national public health priority. Since the 1930s, the federal government has had commitments to programs that address nutritional deficiencies and encourage physical fitness, but only recently has obesity been targeted specifically. In Healthy People 2010, the health objectives for the nation, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) set a goal of reducing the proportion of children and youth who are obese to 5 percent by 2010. Only through policies, legislation, programs, and research will meaningful changes be made. The Secretary of HHS is in the best position to convene a high-level task force involving other federal agencies to coordinate research programs, policies, and budgets aimed at reducing childhood obesity and to catalyze the interdepartmental collaborations needed to resolve such a complex issue.

Yet, incredibly, these are the same people who want us to believe they know best and that their track record is evidence enough to justify even more of our public resources be devoted to their programs. As DeCoster asks:

Question: if the federal government has been "addressing nutritional deficiencies and encouraging physical fitness since the 1930s," and we find that nutrition, obesity, and health "crises" have become more prevalent in those 75 years (according to the alarmists), how do the planner-bureaucrats justify a further increase in federal government intervention?

Media’s doomsday food, health and obesity crisis news and proposed solutions is marketing. The massive amounts of disinformation and manipulations coming from faceless online “friends” is more often marketing than many people suspect. Unless we want to buy what they’re selling, it pays to dig into the science and facts for ourselves and let our voices be heard.

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