I used to teach at a hospital downtown. While on rounds, I’d often ask my residents and students where they were born, and get answers such as, “Alabama”, “Kerala, India”, “Damascus, Syria”. Inevitably, they’d ask me where I was born, and I’d point to the floor and say, “Right here”.
“You mean in Michigan?”
“No,” I’d explain, “I mean right here in this hospital.”
So I have a certain pride about my hometown. I like Detroit, and although I, like many others born there, don’t live in the city, I always hope for a recovery. So it saddens me whenever I see news stories that paint my natal city in a poor light. Whether it’s a focus on the execrable city government that’s never met a bad decision it didn’t take, or the crime, or the sexting ex-mayor, these stories dominate the headlines. We see less often stories of citizens who take over vacant properties and create neighborhood gardens, or neighborhoods where average house prices of less that 10K are bringing artists back into the city. Still, sometimes, our hometown media are our own worst enemy.
I’ve lived in a lot of different cities and watching the local news often gives you a feel for the sophistication of a place. In San Fran, in Chicago, the local TV news reports were very different from each other, matching the west coast and third coast sensibilities, but both often broadcast well-produced stories of local relevance.
And since Detroit has plenty of goings-on of local relevance, it’s just a wonder to me that WXYZ-TV would broadcast another horrid medical scare-piece. (H/T Orac)
It’s nominally about Gardasil, the HPV-cervical cancer vaccine, and entitled (perhaps predictably), “Are You or Your Daughter at Risk?” Rather than exploring the risk of HPV-related diseases…well, let the reporter tell you:
When it was first released in 2006, it sounded like a real medical breakthrough. Gardasil has the potential to prevent 70% of cervical cancers. But the question is: Does it cause problems that are just as serious?
The answer is clearly “no”, but there are still reasonable controversies surrounding the vaccine, such as whether or not it should be mandatory. Still, this report is even more horrible because of some important demographics. The city of Detroit is about 82% African American (and depending on whom you believe, perhaps more). Cervical cancer, the disease that the vaccine is intended to prevent, is much more common among Black women than White women (12..6 vs 8.4 per 100K). Combine that with the fact that Detroit has a spectacularly high rate of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)*, and this report is more than wrong, it’s irresponsible and dangerous.
Combine idiotic “both side-ism” reporting with foolish “abstinence programs”, and pour that over an impoverished minority population with unemployment rate in the 20% range, and channel 7 is simply pouring gasoline on tinder.
Our highest risk populations deserve our best public health and public health education. If a reporter wants to help “save” Detroit and do a story on STDs, maybe she should focus her energy on finding ways to combat STD’s in Detroit through providing real information in prevention. But that’s probably too much to hope for.
*For example, national syphilis rates in 2007 were 13.7 per 100K. In Detroit the rate was about 29 per 100K.