I'm not a doctor. I simply play one at two in the morning as I take my child's temperature and try to wake up just enough to recall which side his appendix is on. Good news. It's the other side, so let's hear a big hooray for that happy ending. Nothing that a little Pedialyte and a box of Tide with bleach substitute couldn't get me through. And that's the sum total of what I do for a living in case you were wondering. This is why they pay me the big bucks. (That's my little hat tip to all the Ann Romneys in the audience who don't work for a living either.) My entire medical expertise is now on display as I fake the audacity to present an article on scientific discovery and health care.
I know what you're thinking. "Housewife. This ought to be informative." But you could certainly do worse. Because I can tell by the look in "child one's" glazed-over eyes that it's time for a strep test just as sure as I know that "child two's" sudden and mysterious symptoms happen to coincide with today's math quiz, and I'd love to tell you that within this exquisite prescience I possess a unique and highly sought-after skill, but most parents are just as equally psychic when it comes to diagnosing their own kids. It's that natural tendency towards the survival instinct that we can access for the sake of our children but can't seem to summon for our own health care needs. Go figure.
It turns out that the scientific community doesn't exactly facilitate our ability to maintain a healthy lifestyle, try though they might and much to our dismay. A lot of medical mixed signals are out there these days. Oh sure, those who don't understand our cultural desire for a symptom free life will often quip, "America – the only place where death is an option." It just seems like maybe it's less of an option than it used to be. That's all I'm saying. Much the way I can divine when "child two" has a math quiz based on his remarkable 115 degree temperature; I can't help but to notice the contradictions in what was once conventional wisdom regarding health maintenance which mysteriously correspond to the passage of health care reform.
Never you mind. I'm a sucker for conspiracy theories, so it probably is just a coincidence. Here. Here's an illustration that shouldn't cause you any momentary pause for concern. Calcium – prime example of science gone awry. I'm forty-something. It's been twenty years now that I've been inundated with irrefutable scientific evidence that women should start taking calcium supplements that have been fortified with vitamin D when they are in their mid-thirties because this will reduce their chances of having osteoporosis later in life. Strong bones. We all want 'em. Am I right?
But here I am in 2012 and I'm reading a report from the scientific community…specifically, the US Preventative Services Task Force – and who knew there was such a thing. I wonder how much of our family income goes into funding their excellent work – which is now doing its best Emily Littela impersonation by reticently stating, "Never mind." Researchers…please note the mildly ambiguous term used as some phantom, unnamed source for expertise in matters of calcium because I'm not exactly sure who the researchers are…none the less, researchers now believe that too much calcium may lead to atherosclerosis which in turn can cause heart attacks.
But if you're lactose intolerant or if you live in New England…? Yes, New England. I don't know why. Something about cloud coverage, but they neglected to mention Seattle as well, so maybe it has more to do with Republican governors or something. Don't try to reason it out. And pardon me because all this incongruity is giving me one of those teeny-tiny headaches right in the center of my forehead…maybe I should pop some low dose aspirin just in case, or has that changed too? I can't remember – oops! Could it be Alzheimer's? Is that garlic, cranberry or turmeric that I should be taking? Help me out…anyway, if you're lactose intolerant or have a propensity for rounding your "Rs" then you may want to take those calcium supplements anyway. Check with your doctor as to whether she prefers broken hips or a coronary bypass. All in all, it's six of one and a half dozen of another.
And don't even get me started on mammograms. Women over forty? Again, another "never-mind" moment brought to you by the Department of Health and Human Services – go figure. You may not require one every year and this is not the worst news that you could give most women. No need to ask us twice. We've already cancelled our long-standing annuals with radiology. Woohoo! That is, unless you or a member of your family has had breast cancer. Or you've had an abortion. Or you've been on the pill. Or you're lactose intolerant – no, cancel that last part. Two weeks ago, they thought that vitamin D could lower the risk of breast cancer. Now? Flip a coin.
Same wunderkinds who brought us global cooling…warming…climate change? No. Those are different ambiguous researchers from another well-funded bureaucracy. Thanks for asking. I suppose all this scientific discovery is making my Pedialyte and box of Tide look pretty good right now. But it's not a big deal either way. Your own body can produce all the vitamin D that you need if you just spend some time out in the sun. Unless you wear sunblock…or live in New England…? In that case your chances of breast cancer increase while your chances of melanoma decrease. Pick your poison.
And while you men sit there and snicker over the medical conundrums that women keep finding themselves in, how about we talk PSA for a second. And no, I do not mean public service announcements. Nice try. Men over 50? You may want to skip that annual test. It may do more harm than good. Of course, it may not. This public service announcement has been brought to you by an entirely different bureaucracy filled with ambiguous experts that was funded with your tax dollars.
So what have we got here? Calcium, vitamins, prostates, hearts, skin and breasts. Add these to the growing list of don'ts that became dos that became don'ts again like salt, sugar, fat, caffeine, chocolate, exercise, Veganism, disco dancing and the multibillions of taxpayer dollars that were spent to learn absolutely nothing about how to keep us living healthier and longer and what do you have?
I'm not sure, but is anyone taking bets on whether the HHS will soon be advocating cigarette smoking for the cure to obesity? Because I want in on that action.