Over at the Rocky Mountain News, Paul Campos has posted a brilliant response to some of the hyped-up points made in the Washington Post's current (and ridiculously overblown) series on childhood obesity--and issued a challenge. A $10,000 challenge, to be exact, to the lead author of the 2005 study that predicts a two-to-five-year drop in life expectancy "unless aggressive action manages to reverse obesity rates."
Campos rebuts some of the war-on-childhood-obesity's usual points with elegance and clarity. For instance, to put some of the current hyperbole in context, he points out, "Ever since public health records began to be compiled in America in the mid-19th century, the following statement has always been true: Today's children are both larger and healthier, on average, than those of a generation ago."
One of the most commonly repeated predictions by fervent generals in the war on childhood obesity is that because children are fatter today, their lives will be shorter. What could possibly strike more fear into a parent's heart? I think this prediction is at the heart of the current hype, and clearly Campos agrees, because his challenge to the author of the 2005 study involves a more thorough examination of the data:
If, at any decennial census going forward, obesity rates have risen or remained the same, and life expectancy in America has declined, I'll pay [the author] $10,000. If we don't get any thinner but life expectancy has risen, he'll pay me the same sum.
I look forward to Round 2.