Harvard Researchers Also Know What Is Best For Your Children. Sort Of. Maybe.

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19 Responses

  1. Ronald Pottol says:

    And of course, they really have no clue about what causes obesity, nor how to treat it effectively beyond surgery. Now, they will talk about "diet and exercise", but in well designed studies, those only work for about 1% of the subjects.

    There is reason to think low carb can work, and paleo(ancestral diet) approached seem even better, and recent series on food reward and also gastric bypass show that there is much more going on.

  2. delurking says:

    "Nevertheless, state intervention would clearly not be desirable or practical, and probably not be legally justifiable, for most of the approximately 2 million children in the United States with a BMI at or beyond the 99th percentile. "

    There are not 2 million children in the US with a BMI at or beyond the 99th percentile. That would imply there are 200 million children in the US. Then again, they are Harvard researchers. Maybe they think of the vast majority of Americans as children.

  3. Dwight Brown says:

    I can't afford a platinum membership (yet) but I feel kind of guilty that you came $30 out of pocket for this. Does Popehat have a Paypal account for sums smaller than $750,000?

  4. Xenocles says:

    Whenever I hear the phrase "researchers recommend that policymakers…" I reach for my gun.

    (What if they recommend that a policy be loosened? Let me know when it happens and I'll tell you how I feel.)

  5. C. S. P. Schofield says:

    Both Doctors and Harvard graduates and/or employees have a tendency to confuse themselves with God. A Doctor who IS connected to Harvard is probably so delusional that he thinks he pisses rosewater.

  6. Ken says:

    CSP, I read that on my iPhone as "piss rottweilers," and I was thinking that would be an AWESOME superpower. Before you attacked your enemy's secret lair you would drink, like, three Big Gulps. But I sure hope they come out tiny and get big after.

  7. C. S. P. Schofield says:


    That would certainly make passing a kidney stone feel trivial by comparison.

  8. T says:

    The problem, as always, is the creeping incrementalism. First, it's okay to take kids who are morbidly obese and suffering health problems. Next, it's just the fat kids at risk of health problems. Finally, CPS is at your house because somebody thinks your kid is too pudgy or eats poorly at school. For all the talk of 'slippery slope' being a logical fallacy, absent any limiting principle it's usually a prediction.

  9. Ken says:

    A Harvard story:

    My partner, who is extremely into Harvard, holds Harvard Club meetings here at the firm. I do not attend. Last night, the partner was away, but the Club held its meeting anyway.

    An older gentlemen arrived about half an hour early and was not-quite-shouting at our clerks, who were sitting at reception, about how some black man had done him wrong. He became dissatisfied with their response, and started hollering at a male clerk instead.

    I've managed to piece together what got him upset. Apparently he pulled up to the parking garage of our skyscraper — which is 50 stories high and contains dozens and dozens of businesses — and told the parking lot attendant that he was here for the Harvard Club meeting and demanded to know where it was. The parking lot attendant, not surprisingly, is not kept in the loop about what tenants of the building are hosting meetings for which clubs. Not even the Harvard Club. But the old guy claims the attendant told him he was in the wrong building and waved him down the street. This might have been a miscommunication — the old guy is hard of hearing. On the other hand, the attendant may have been confused — the Jonathan Club and the California Club, two clubs widely associated with old, white, poorly socialized rich men, are indeed just down the street. Anyway, this led the old guy to be only a half hour early instead of an hour early, and led to his rant about the black guy downstairs, apparently.

    What kind of building are they running here if the parking lot attendant doesn't know where the Harvard Club is meeting?

  10. Mike says:

    Delurking – that was my first thought as well – its impossible for 2 million kids to be in the 99th percentile.

    I think the answer is that they use a chart prepared in the 1950s that tells them for a 5 foot tall kid, median weight is 100 pounds, 75th percentile is 120 pounds, 99th percentile is 140 pounds…

    So they say that any 5 foot tall kid that comes in today weighing more than 140 pounds is above the 99th percentile – even if that's 50% of kids.

    But you're right – it does scream innumeracy.

  11. Mike says:

    But more troubling is the use of percentiles to determine risk. Leaving aside the innumeracy, the researchers are suggesting that they're justified in taking 1% of children into foster care solely based on the fact they're at the end of a normal distribution curve. No messy proof of harm or anything, just height and weight.

    And the dirty thing about statistics is that no matter how healthy the whole population is, 1% of kids are always on the wrong side of the 99th percentile. This program goes on forever, no matter how much broccoli we make them eat.

  12. TJIC says:

    > What kind of building are they running here if the parking lot attendant doesn’t know where the Harvard Club is meeting?

    I could certainly understand the parking attendant not knowing where the Cornell Club meeting was…or perhaps even the Yale Club meeting… but the HARVARD meeting?

    Looks like you've not had the right kind of people explain things to you yet.

  13. Ken says:

    Mike: Actually, they're not advocating (at least openly) doing it based on percentage alone. They incorporated certain diagnostic criteria by reference, which I quoted and linked above.

  14. Mike says:

    My bad – I misread that sentence as trying to justify intervention.

  15. Xenocles says:

    T, slippery slope is a logical fallacy. As that name implies, it has little relation to human behavior.

  16. SPQR says:

    No, actually "slippery slope" is very descriptive of human behavior.

  17. Xenocles says:

    I worded that awkwardly. The gist is that human behavior tends to have little to do with logic.

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