Worst Headline Ever: “Get Tough with Patients”

The award for the worst headline of the week goes to the AP. It seems that the AP believes that the main point of new obesity treatment guidelines published by the Obesity Society, the American Heart Association, and the American College of Cardiology is that doctors need to beat up on their patients with obesity. Here’s how it played in the Washington Post.

Doctors Told to Get Tough

Variations of this “Get Tough on Patients with Obesity” headline played out all over the country in papers that ran the AP story. In AP’s digest of the top 10 stories of the week, it was “Medical Organizations Urge Doctors to Get Toughter with Patients about Obesity.”

Thankfully, USA Today and others got it right with headlines such as “Doctors Urged to Treat Obesity Like Any Other Ailment.”

The urge to beat up on people with obesity is just plain stupid and counterproductive. People have plenty of desire to get their weight under control. What they need help with is the how-to part of it. Scolding and shaming reduces the likelihood of helping someone improve their health. It leads some advocacy organizations to overcompensate by denying the health effects of obesity.

Good health reporters should know better. Nowhere in the 766 pages of these guidelines will you find any form of the word “tough.”

Click here for the Washington Post story, click here for a study of how counterproductive scolding can be, and click here for the guidelines themselves.

Headline, photograph © Björn Bechstein / flickr

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