The American Heart Association has a PR problem

The results of the latest Heart Scan Blog poll are in. The poll was prompted by yet another observation that the American Heart Association diet is a destructive diet that, in this case, made a monkey fat.

Because I am skeptical of "official" organizations that purport to provide health advice, particularly nutritional advice, I thought this poll might provide some interesting feedback.

I asked:

The American Heart Association is an organization that:

The responses:
Tries to maintain the procedural and medication status quo to benefit the medical system and pharmaceutical industry for money
240 (64%)

Doesn't know its ass from a hole in the ground
121 (32%)

Is generally helpful but is misguided in some of its advice
79 (21%)

Accomplishes tremendous good and you people are nuts
6 (1%)

Worrisome. Now, perhaps the people reading this blog are a skeptical bunch. Or perhaps they are better informed.

Nonetheless, one thing is clear: The American Heart Association (and possibly other organizations like the American Diabetes Association and USDA) have a serious PR problem. They are facing an increasingly critical and skeptical public.

Just telling people to "cut the fat and cholesterol" is beginning to fall on deaf ears. After all, the advice to cut fat, cut saturated fat, cut cholesterol and increase consumption of "healthy whole grains" in 1985 began the upward ascent of body weight and diabetes in the American public.

Believe it or not, my vote would be for something between choices 1 and 3. I believe that the American Heart Association achieves a lot of good. But I also believe that there are forces within organizations that are there to serve their own agendas. In this case, I believe there is a substantial push to maintain the procedural and medication status quo, the "treatments" that generate the most generous revenues.

I believe that I will forward these poll results to the marketing people at the American Heart Association. That'll be interesting!

Comments (17) -

  • Tuck

    3/1/2011 11:46:38 PM |

    Did the monkeys get to vote? ;)

  • reikime

    3/2/2011 12:11:04 AM |

    I would LOVE to read a response from the AHA!

  • Anonymous

    3/2/2011 12:15:46 AM |

    Come on Doc, these statistics are obviously bias. That's like asking the readers of an vegan/animal-rights blog, "Do you think meat is murder?" and trying to transpose the results as being all encompassing.

  • Rick

    3/2/2011 1:32:30 AM |

    I have to agree with Anonymous here. Nothing surprising in the fact that the majority of readers of a blog that regularly criticizes the AHA have a critical stance towards the AHA.

    Move along, these are not the droids you're looking for.

  • Harold

    3/2/2011 2:34:28 AM |

    I think you are being a bit generous to them. I certainly agree about the ADA. They seem to be in it for the money and they are getting plenty of it from drug companies. I am a physician and a diabetic and if I followed their advice my blood sugars would be out of control. As it is I am on a very low carb life style and in excellent control!
    Thanks for your posts.

  • Real Food RD

    3/2/2011 4:13:16 AM |

    certainly it's not a random sample, but nonetheless, I would have to agree that all of these organizations and government agencies are losing credibility with the public and fast.  As a health professional myself, I can only hope my colleagues may begin to soften their stance before our credibility is completely shot with the public.

  • Anonymous

    3/2/2011 1:14:17 PM |

    Tuck, the monkeys must make up the extra 18%.

    Doctor, I truly appreciate your blog, read it religiously and follow much of your advice, but before forwarding to the AHA, you might want to check the numbers.

  • renegadediabetic

    3/2/2011 1:59:02 PM |

    I think the AHA has done a lot of good in the treatment of heart attacks and keeping people alive.  However, I was thinking mainly of the "prevention" side when I voted "Tries to maintain the procedural and medication..."

    Likewise, the ADA and other diabetes orgs are no doubt doing some good research into causes and prevention of type 1 diabetes, but their nutritional approach is a disaster.  Again, just maintaining the status quo for so long that they would be afraid to admit they were wrong if they finally did see the light.

  • Might-o'chondri-AL

    3/2/2011 5:24:44 PM |

    Their heart is in the right place. In another 40 years scientists will be deriding the intriguing bloggosphere theories.

  • reikime

    3/2/2011 5:53:19 PM |

    I just dislike these organizations jumping on a bandwagon d'jour, and trying to apply it to everyone blanketly.

    People are not a " one size fits all " species!  When will the AHA, ADA, etc, stop aligning with big agriculture and pharma and think of individual people and their specific needs?  Is that just a pipe dream?

  • Tara

    3/2/2011 11:20:06 PM |

    Real Food RD, I'm with you!

    I was going to throw the other ADA in that stack too.  I've let them know several times how I feel about their corporate sponsors and partners.  Disgusted.

  • Brian Vickerman

    3/3/2011 2:12:54 AM |

    To be honest... after promoting such a lifestyle for so many years... wouldn't a sudden change in opinion open them to law suits?

    How can they respond to that?

  • reikime

    3/3/2011 3:14:54 AM |

    Great point Brian. I hadn't even thought of it.

    Wouldn't it be the same with any condition that current medical research might up- end the treatment protocols?
    ie..remember when patients with gastric ulcers were advised to drink milk and cream and avoid spicy foods etc?  
    Then enter H. Pylori...albeit some 10 years after published studies and much derision from U.S. gastros. Treatment standards changed dramatically. Never heard of lawsuits over that.

  • Anonymous

    3/3/2011 3:16:21 AM |

    Could people leave more than one response?  The percentages add up to more than a hundred.

  • Bob

    3/3/2011 3:27:57 AM |

    OK, I did the math.  Apparently about 375 unique respondents, with 70 or so choosing more than one answer.

  • mongander

    3/3/2011 4:05:38 AM |

    My impression is that 'disease associations' exist primarily to ensure their continued existance.

    I have heard good reports on the Muscular Distrophy Assoc.

  • Anonymous

    3/3/2011 8:37:54 PM |

    Dr D, I don't think the AHA is sending you a Christmas card this year