- Posted January 13, 2013 by
Some Do Not Have To Die To Get The Message Out -- Accurate CNN Reporting Could Save Lives
Misinformation, like than conveyed by CNN last week, can be a deadly. There is a saying among alcoholics and addicts that some must die so that others may live. One hundred and sixteen thousand die each year in the United States, including thirty five hundred children. Twenty three million more are at risk. I do not believe they have to die so that others may hear this disease is a killer and that they can recover. We could get this message out with accurate media coverage of the Substance Abuse Epidemic and recovery strategies.
CNN reported last week that substance abuse is a choice. Addiction is not a choice. It is a disease from which one can recover. Gil Kerlikowske, the Director of National Drug Control Policy, recently stressed this, in announcing a new focus on recovery in battling the Substance Abuse Epidemic. Instead of relegating sufferers to a class of those who "make bad choices", they need to be treated like anyone else enduring a chronic and often fatal illness . Demeaning sufferers does not work. Recovery does. News agencies need to get this right.
But news agencies do not get this right. CNN did not get it right last week when reporting upon the health crisis confronting the United States. A new study --U.S. Health in International Perspective: Shorter Lives, Poorer Health -- compared life expectancy and health in the U.S. with sixteen “peer” nations, and found that the U.S. ranked last in life expectancy and fared worse than its peers in life threatening health areas, in large part because of addiction. CNN inaccurately reported that the study concluded addiction is “a choice”. CNN’s January 9th coverage paraphrased the study as stating:
“Although Americans know what is ‘good’ for them, few act on it . . . we consume more calories, have higher rates of drug abuse, are less likely to use seat belts, and are more likely to use guns in acts of violence, according to the report”.
Further, in a January 11th CNN opinion article on the study, the author called addiction a
“[choice made] at a personal level”.
This is a distortion of the study’s findings -- the study did not state that alcohol or drug abuse was tantamount to Americans “knowing what was good for them and not acting on it”. This is because science established that addiction is not a choice decades ago. What is newsworthy is not that addiction is a disease -- it is that the media continues to get this wrong.
The new study concluded that with lives and dollars at stake, the U.S. must take immediate action to improve the life expectancy and health of Americans by understanding why the U.S. lags behind other peer nations so that appropriate health objectives and strategies can be implemented. It noted that not only a list of goals, but a societal commitment of effort were required to meet this challenge. Accurate media reporting on the threats contributing to America’s health crisis, including addiction, is essential. We do not have to rely upon the graves of one hundred thousand more alcoholics and addicts every year to get the message out. We really do not. There is a better way.
Lisa M. Jacobsen