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Official Minute on the Falsification of Public Health Data

February 15, 2011

Phoenix Urban Health Collective

Action · Outreach · Advocacy

As medical professionals, we understand that successful public health efforts depend on the accurate and timely dissemination of public health information.  Falsification or misrepresentation of public health data poses a threat to the health of our communities, and betrays a concerning lack of respect, not only for those who are working to promote public health, but also to the populace that is being lied to.
The Phoenix Urban Health Collective (PUHC) condemns, in the strongest terms, the practice of misrepresenting and/or falsifying public health data to further a political agenda.
The Phoenix Urban Health Collective is committed to holding public figures accountable for any falsification and misrepresentation of public health data.  In order to avoid such embarrassment, community leaders who intend to place the blame for public health problems on the vulnerable populations existing within our community need to first read the following steps:

If you intend to sound the alarm about a public health problem, first make sure that the problem you are referencing actually exists.

An epidemic is defined as a statistically significant increase in the incidence of a disease.  If county, state, or federal officials have not declared an epidemic, it probably doesn’t exist.  In recent years, we have heard local community leaders cite numerous non-existent epidemics, ranging from malaria to leprosy, to beheadings.   Likewise, several community leaders have recently stated that immigrants from Mexico lack immunization, while the Pan American Health initiative lists Mexico as having a better immunization rate than the US (1).

If an increased incidence of a specific disease is found to be present within a vulnerable population, please be prepared to explain why you chose to frame the members of said populations as being the perpetrators of the problem, rather than the victims of failed public health policy.

Public health is a policy issue.  Poor public health is a policy failure.  To claim that the populations with the least voice in how our public institutions are structured and funded are somehow more culpable for public health failures than those who wrote and implemented the failed policy is a remarkable claim.

If you are a policy maker who has recently voted to cut funding for public health programs, please be prepared to explain why you feel that the victims of public health failures are more culpable than you.

Please be prepared to cite sources

This should go without saying.  Reliable public health data is remarkably accessible: the  CDC, as well as state and county health departments perform and publish detailed studies when there is a statistically significant increase in a disease that has been deemed to be of epidemiologic import.   These reports are written by trained epidemiologists with many years of academic preparation.

If the data from public health agencies is in conflict with the claims of an organization that is not recognized as a valid academic source, please do not expect to be taken seriously if you cite the latter – especially if the source you are citing has been recognized as a hate group by the SPLC (2).  It greatly disappoints us that we must specifically state this.

References

1. Pan American Health Organization.  http://ais.paho.org/phip/viz/cip_coverageandsanitation.asp
2. Southern Poverty Law Center. http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-report/browse-all-issues/2002/summer/the-puppeteer

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