Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Tara Parker Pope to leave me to my own devices

I never miss Tara Parker Pope's health columns in the Wall Street Journal. They are readable, timely, and easy for the layman to understand, and most important to me, she usually leads the reader to her sources. Last week she wrote about firing up the grill and why women might want to think twice:
    "Postmenopausal women who often ate grilled barbecued and smoked meats had a 47% higher risk for breast cancer than low meat eaters." From Epidemiology, May 2007
She offered these tips: 1) Microwave food about a minute before grilling; 2) eat lots of vegetables with your grilled food; 3) Use marinades; 4) flip your food often; 5) cook red meat medium or rare; 6) cook at a lower temperature whether in your oven, stove or grill. I think that's a really helpful summary of research we wouldn't ordinarily read.

But today she announced it was her last column:
    "In recent weeks I have been reflecting on the power of information to improve health."
I think I know how she feels. "Information" is the most over rated value we have and as a librarian I learned that early. Information isn't wisdom; it isn't action; it doesn't come with a guarantee it won't be misused; it doesn't build relationships; and it definitely isn't power. Librarians have learned that and increasingly spend their time fiddling with IT gimmicks that will manipulate the information, parsing it into i-pods or applets or digital snipplets.

She writes movingly about her own mother's health crisis. Using her skills at manipulating information Tara was able to find their second best choice for oncologist who was a complete bust (first choice was taking no new patients), because he was rude and dismissive both about her information skills and her mother's health. A chance remark by her mother put them back with their first choice because she had been his patient years ago. They pursued together the best options for her mother, and for awhile she was cancer free, but it returned and claimed her. Pope clings to the idea that everyone has the power to take control of her own health, and that taking charge didn't save her mother's life, but made the end better. But if it hadn't been for that chance remark. . . all the information in the world and the wonders of the internet for her to search wouldn't have led them to the right doctor.

More on TPP

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