Wednesday, November 09, 2011

The LA and New York Times Forget Something Important

What'd they forget?

That study outcomes don't always matter.

Both were reporting on a new study that found that "soda bans" in schools don't in fact impact upon sugar sweetened beverage consumption by students.

The New York Times' headline was, "Soda Bans in Schools Have Limited Impact", while the LA Times reported, "Soda bans in schools don't stop sugary drink consumption, study says".

I can't fault their factual accuracy as indeed it's true that this study didn't find any impact from sugar-sweetened beverage bans in schools.

My response?

Putting aside methodological questions and the usual arguments surrounding correlation and causation, my most important response is, "So what?".

What am I getting at?

If there were a study that suggested banning smoking in schools didn't curb childhood tobacco use would that be a reason not to ban smoking in schools?

Of course not.

And while I can't fault the LA and New York Times' for the accuracy of their reporting, and while perhaps it's even unfair of me, I can't help but wonder whether or not in this world of headline rather than study readers, whether these types of articles will be used in the fight against wise public policy by those who value profits more than health.

Schools shouldn't be selling kids sugar sweetened beverages. Sure, kids might buy them on their own outside of school grounds, but that still doesn't make selling them in schools a good idea.

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  1. I shared your same reservation when I saw these stories. I work in beverage policy and worry that these articles will be misinterpreted and misused against potential policy interventions. Particularly when people only read the headlines. This was a cross-sectional study, and the headlines are making the classic mistake of claiming causation out of study that is really showing an association.

  2. I couldn't agree more. I also think schools should devote more time and attention to education our kids about fitness and nutrition.

  3. We are consumers influenced by headlines and guilty of not reading anything more.
    I just read a post about billboards and how they influence our choices without much thought given to why we make those choices.
    Thanks again Yoni, I totally agree keep sugary choices to a minimum in schools!

  4. Anonymous11:06 am

    Yes I was thinking the same thing as well. Are these findings reason to bring the pop back in? Of course that would be ridiculous.

  5. Anonymous1:00 pm

    reminds me of parents who think "oh my teenager is going to drink anyway so i'd rather they do it in my house", makes just as much sense, which is none!