Thursday, December 18, 2008

"Top 10 'Yuppie' Conditions"

Or, "An Article Diminished By Lousy Headlines"

Lauren Cox's ABC News story "Top 10 'Yuppie' Conditions" (December 17, 2008) has a lousy headline that encourages readers to think of the 10 conditions as (air-quote) "conditions" and a poor sub-headline that seems to confuse "Wheat Allergy or Celiac Disease or Gluten Allergy"—but beyond that, I guess it's all right.

Cox offers "10 of the most besmirched conditions patients wish would be taken more seriously," starting with a section on celiac disease even though that darn sub-headline also mentions allergies.

The article cites Elaine Monarch of the Celiac Disease Foundation (CDF) to the effect that "in 2004 the National Institutes of Health convened a consensus conference about celiac disease. The doctors estimated that 97 percent of people who have it have not been diagnosed, and that one out of 133 people likely had the condition." Okay. And it also quotes Dr. Alessio Fasano (who has a personal interest in research and development) as saying, "It deserves all the respect that we give to the other diseases that we spend so much time and money on." Also okay, despite the lack of disclaimer.

But besides better headlines, something that would actually have helped earn respect for celiac disease would have been a more coherent presentation that conveys the costs of celiac disease going underdiagnosed. Cox might even have noted that testing for celiac disease might help people with at least four of the other nine "Yuppie" conditions:
'Yuppie Flu' or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome*
Social Phobia and Social Anxiety Disorder*
Tennis Elbow
Anxiety vs. Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Restless Leg Syndrome
Irritable Bowel Syndrome*
Seasonal Affective Disorder
Yes, celiac disease can be suspected in people with the four asterisked conditions. At least that's the point of view of the CDF, and, in the case of social phobia, doctors at Italy's Institute of Internal Medicine at the Catholic University of Rome.

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