Recall it and Bury it

Whenever you watch a TV show or movie, when some higher up official tells their subordinate to bury something that was discovered through analysis or data, you know as a viewer that something shady is about to go down. Anyone watch Blindspot on NBC? article was sent to me as part of a monthly newsletter, and it was one that really concerned me, because it was related to my work. Drexel University sent an article about how research conducted in East LA on providing healthy fruits and vegetables at a local corner store failed to increase healthy buying.

Title: Healthy Eating Gets No Boost After Corner Store Interventions, Drexel Study Finds


Now, everyone knows that an article like that isn’t only discouraging to those who have been putting a whole lot of time, effort,  money, blood, sweat, and tears into initiatives surrounding finding ways to really increase healthy food access to provide communities with healthier options. After all, I recently wrote a blog on wondering why having such access is such a bad thing when it’s not. So, it’s discouraging, and rather than keep the article to myself. I sent this to a bunch of my colleagues at the office because it wasn’t only discouraging, but it was also close to home. After all, the study was done in East LA, which is California. Is it in our doorstep, no. But it’s close enough.

One colleague, not management (Thank goodness) came to my office and commented how she’s seen the study. Her next comment was: “Recall the message. I want to bury it.” While it’s a joke, because I know her pretty well, it was a reaction that I couldn’t take lightly. Public Health has a responsibility to be as transparent about things like this.

When I saw the article, you can bet I was pretty discouraged. I wrote a 20 page paper on its effectivity, policies around the US are in effect trying to provide food swamps and deserts with access to healthier food options and descent prices. So, seeing this article was incredibly disappointing. Yet, my reaction to this is that other areas then must need work — how can we educate young parents to purchase healthy food options, can we teach busy parents how to cook, can we teach busy working folks to cook fast healthy meals? How about pricing? Is there ways to provide such items at descent prices? Kids — how can we teach kids to try healthy gruits and vegetables while keeping sugary drinks at a minimum? So there are many things to think about. There’s a reason why in public health we have comprehensive models when it revolves around a community. Not one thing can be affected. There are many layers to the onion (i.e. Ecological Model).

Yet to hear a joke to recall a message about a peer reviewed study as well as bury the report reminded me of the shady feeling I get when I watch movies/TV shows where something is known and is of concern, and rather than find a way to deal with the situation, the higher echelons of an agency chooses to ignore the problem by putting the file into some obscure filing cabinet.

Public health ought not be like this — where a disappointing report such as this be hidden. Rather, if anything, it’s an opportunity for various partners to come together and think how can we make something like this work. A barrier was hit. How do we overcome this? Those are the kinds of questions that we ought to solvee rather than hide something that’s disappointing.


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