Are you salty?
No I don’t mean are you mad, I meant do you have a lot of salt in your body. Last week CNN’s Black in America allowed Roland Fryer to open up the “salt sensitivity theory” of Black health again (see 31 minutes in on the first video below). If you followed my previous link to Blacksmythe’s blog on Black in America you probably got a sense of why folks are so cynical of this theory and Fryer’s fame for unsubstantiated or non-peer reviewed theories, but the responses below really speak to the power of popular perception.
(If you have two hours (that you’ll never get back), here is Pt 1 of Black in America – The Black Woman & Family … don’t get me started on how Black women didn’t get a full program)
First a press release from Dr. Thomas LaViest at John Hopkins.
July 28, 2008
Johns Hopkins Health Disparities Expert Criticizes CNN Report
Baltimore – Promoting unproven theories as a key cause of the
enormous health gap between African Americans and other ethnic
groups will likely widen the gap further, said a leading researcher
working to close the gap.
Thomas A. LaVeist, PhD, Director of the Center for Health Disparities
Solutions at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health was
alarmed when he saw the health care segment of CNN’s “Black In
America” series and heard the salt-sensitivity theory being promoted
as a key reason to explain why blacks are unhealthy compared to
whites and other groups.
“I commend CNN and Soledad O’Brien for tackling this very important
topic, but to expose an audience to this theory is very troubling and
disappointing,” LaVeist said.
During the segment, O’Brien interviewed Harvard economist Roland
Fryer who said he believes the salt-sensitive theory may be key to
unlocking why blacks on average have poor health. The salt-
sensitivity theory claims that during the transatlantic slave trade,
African slaves whose bodies held higher levels of salt were better
able to survive the long brutal voyage to the Americas. Their
descendants are now genetically disposed to hypertension and other
diseases that are tied to salt.
“This bogus theory just won’t seem to die,” LaVeist said. “Even
though public health researchers have discredited the theory it
continues to be promoted by people who are not knowledgeable about
the field. THE AVERAGE HEALTH CONSUMER WATCHING CNN COULD TAKE THIS
AS THE GOSPEL AND RUN WITH IT TO THEIR OWN DETRIMENT.”
Most research scientists who work on this public health problem would
agree that some of the key health disparity causes are:
• Blacks are exposed to more environmental toxins because of
• Blacks have less access to quality healthcare
• Higher levels of poverty among African Americans
• Higher levels of use of harmful products such as cigarettes
• Less healthy diets
• Less healthy foods in African American communities
• Residing in more stressful environments
“To suggest that health disparities are caused by a gene that exists
in African Americans and does not exist in others is ridiculous.
There are no genes found in only one race group,” LaVeist
said. “Hypertension and all other major causes of death are caused by
a complex set of factors. They are not single gene diseases. If race
disparities were primarily caused by a gene, that gene would have to
cause hypertension and cancer and diabetes and glaucoma, and Crohn’s
disease and asthma and HIV-AIDS and every other condition that is
more prevalent in blacks and we know no one gene does that.”
“I respect professor Fryer, but quoting an economist as an expert on
health disparities is like interviewing me for a story about why gas
prices have spiked,” LaVeist said. “Not only are researchers at
Hopkins working on this problem, but people are working on this issue
right there in Atlanta where CNN is headquartered. The problem of
health disparities is complex. By trying to reduce it to a simplistic
explanation we risk having health care providers, policymakers and
patients feel there is nothing they can do to address the issue.”
About Thomas LaVeist:
As the William C. and Nancy F. Richardson Professor in Health Policy,
and Director of the Hopkins Center for Health Disparities Solutions
at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. LaVeist has
studied the major healthcare gaps in America, the trends causing them
and the problems they create. His work is enabling healthcare
organizations and individuals to prepare for a new America—a minority
Second, an editorial by Osagie Obasogie penned a little over a year ago in response to Oprah’s show advancing the same bogus salty theory.
Both commentaries I received via the Spirit of 1848 listserv, thanks for sharing Shak-G.