There are so many reasons to look forward to 2020— an exciting election year, the start of a new decade, and the finish of an old one. This year is a long-awaited favorite of my ophthalmology colleagues—the one claiming clarity, focus, and a clear vision towards the future. The list of allusions to 20/20 vision is endless. It’s also a year of fun calendar factoids: a February 29th (on a Saturday, so it shouldn’t add much to most people’s work weeks), two “Friday the 13ths,” and the Christmas and New Year’s holidays falling on Thursday/Fridays, making for two neat and tidy four-day weekends. But the end of one decade and the start of another is also a time to reflect on the many successes and many foibles advancing science, health, and medicine. There have been so many successes, yet the ones that were supposed to be advances but ended up being quite the opposite are just as important to mention.
While there have been so many pseudo-scientific fake facts filling the internet over the past decade, my top five health recommendations that were the biggest flops are as follows:
- Delaying Vaccines:
In 1998, just before the turn of the millennium, Andrew Wakefield published a fraudulent research study which was later retracted from the Lancet, where he claimed that exposure to the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine led to the development of autism. The entire study was later found to be fake, but the notion of vaccines causing autism took off like wildfire. Celebrity voices chimed in, and the modern anti-vaccination movement as we know it was born. In the early 2000’s, many parents were choosing to forego vaccinations altogether, mainly due to this one fraudulent study accompanied by celebrity support. In this past decade, the sentiment has shifted to families and a handful of physicians creating tailored vaccine schedules, despite large studies demonstrating that the vaccine schedules recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and the Centers for Disease Control have recommended otherwise. The thought process on the part of parents and a few wayward physicians was to somehow keep their kids healthier by avoiding exposure to too many vaccines early in life. However, there is no evidence that this is healthy. Quite the contrary. The result of these delays has been widespread disease outbreaks, both in the United States and throughout the world. The current devastation in Samoa, with dozens of un-vaccinated children dying from a measles outbreak is just one example of how either delaying or foregoing vaccines is bad medicine and bad public health practice.
- Drinking Bottled Water
The bottled water industry certainly did not begin during this decade, but the growing list of supplemented waters, with vitamins, alkalinity, extra oxygen, specific electrolytes, and extracts for energy has really gone off the deep end. Some waters claim to make you smart, some will make you calm, some give you extra energy, and some will give you better focus. What all of these waters will actually give you is a lighter wallet, and more polluted oceans. According to the organization “Habits of Waste” (HOW), over 50 billion water bottles were used last year in this country alone, and fewer than 10 percent of those were recycled. In addition, tap water costs about fifty cents per year per person, while annual individual cost of bottled water is about $1,400. There is no evidence that any of these waters really make any difference health-wise, and if your tap water supply is safe, that is the healthiest and best public health way to go.