“…Alarmist medical advertising is pretty funny on television, but it can be far more troubling in real life. Although I’ve never been alerted to impending death, I recently received an advertisement from my own trusted health care provider warning that I may have Alzheimer’s disease, although I have no known symptoms and no complaints.
As long-time patients at NorthShore University Health System, which is affiliated with the University of Chicago, my wife and I received two solicitations from its Center for Brain Health touting the development of “ways to slow brain aging and even prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s…”
The test has 23 yes-or-no questions about health and lifestyle. Some of them seem obvious (Is there a family history of Alzheimer’s? Have you had a stroke?), and some are much less intuitive (Did you complete less than 12 years of school? Does your diet include white bread every day?).
A final question asks, “Are you worried about your brain health?”
Selecting “No” for all questions, including the final one about worrying, is apparently the only combination that generates an alternate response from the quiz: “Looks like you have a healthy brain.”
This struck me as problematic at best. The American Medical Association’s Code of Ethics prohibits advertising that is “misleading” or creates “unjustified medical expectations,” and it requires claims to be “factually supportable.” The Brain Health Quiz, as I discovered, is almost guaranteed to generate a 100 percent hit rate, even for people without any of the objective risk factors. It purports to be making individualized assessments through meaningful screening, but it ends up pushing consultations for nearly everyone. After all, why take the quiz if you aren’t already concerned?”
Article in Context
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