Saturday, November 22, 2008

Is one city really "healthier" than another? After Burlington VT made news by being called the healthiest city in the US, I explored city rankings in general, and the basis for Burlington's honor specifically, for the LA Times . Another thing? All the cities in a top ten list are likely to be equivalent -- in other words, #10 (and maybe even #25) is not measurably different from #1.

Two weeks ago, I looked into the issue of drinking during pregnancy for the LA Times. No one disputes the damaging effects on the baby, called fetal alcohol syndrome, when a pregnant mom drinks a lot. What's not known is where the threshold lies between total abstinence and dangerous drunkenness. A recent study may help doctors reassure women who imbibe every once in a while, and have that reassurance be based on scientific evidence.


J. Allen Crowe said...

Don't be fooled by the UK research the LA Times reported. Self reporting by pregnant women who are drinking is the least scientific method of gathering information. The UK study did not take that into account, and as such, the data of the prenatally exposed children of the women who lied about drinking skews the research, making the non-exposed children appear to have lower academic and social data than the ones where the women drank low levels of alcohol. Animal research studies refute the notion that low levels of alcohol is not damaging to the developing fetus.

MT said...

Self reporting by pregnant women who are drinking is the least scientific method of gathering information.

Second to sampling blog comments, you mean ;)

Jill U Adams said...

Fair point. The study author did say self-report is a point of contention, always, in these kinds of studies. Still, she said, "Quite a bit of research shows that these retrospective accounts of alcohol consumption are really very useful."

Asking someone about current behavior usually is more reliable than asking them to remember past behavior. However, this may be an exception to that rule. While pregnant, the social pressure against drinking is still present and the possible outcomes -- for a particular woman -- are still unknown. It might be easier for that woman to admit drinking during her pregnancy once she has a healthy 3-month-old baby at hand.