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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Being a (public health) expert means never having to say you are sorry

One of the continuing pleasures of following and sometimes participating in the world of medical blogging is the enjoyment of watching some bloggers who regularly hit things out of the park. I am thinking particularly about DrRich (aka Dr Richard Fogoros of the blog " the covert rationing blog") and his recent commentary about public health efforts that go wrong,sometimes badly so,and how the experts cram their previous advice down the memory hole and go on with their latest recommendations . See here for his latest and then here for an earlier spot-on critique of our public health brothers and their follies .

Public health experts enjoy a decision making advantage over the medical doctor who has to often take aggregate data-such as randomized clinical trials but often less reliable data) and then attempt to apply that to the individual patients sitting in his office.All the public health expert has to do is to look at the aggregate data and base recommendations on that while the practicing physician realizes that lying under the summary statistics are individual patients some of whom may will benefit from the proposed treatment while others are unaffected and still others are harmed. Life in the dealing with real patient trenches is more complicated ,nuanced and reality based than in the offices of the academic public health experts who can base their conclusions and recommendation on the utilitarian imperative .

DrRich talks about public health experts " displaying every ounce of the overblown self-confidence traditionally enjoyed by the expert class operating within our Progressive
institutions "

The public health experts share the following view with " leaders with ideas " who vie for the position of architect in the redoing of American health care :

The basic tenet of what I call the medical progressive is that:

health care is too important (and too complicated) to be left to the individual physician and her patient.

"..to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design.

This F.A.Hayek's quote was directed to the central planners who believed they could control an economy from a governmental perch and did not need the knowledge derived from competition of a price driven market.The problem of knowing what and how much everyone should and should not eat is of a different sort but Hayek's words can function as a much needed counterpoint to their hubris .

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