Earlier this week I was talking to my Health & Behavior Change class about the leading causes of death, most of which are chronic diseases that are caused, in large part, by health-related behaviors. In our discussion the students expressed some surprise at what diseases really kill the most Americans each year.
It turns out that much of what we perceive to be the biggest threats to our health come from what we know is based on fund raising and PR efforts from organizations that represent specific diseases. The recent Ice Bucket Challenge to raise money for ALS is one example.
No question, this—and others like it—are worthy causes. But it does distort our perception of the health problems we should be most concerned with, and the things we can do to prevent or delay these conditions.
That’s not to say that we shouldn’t raise money to support ALS research. But we should pay attention, through fundraising and personal interest, to the diseases that are most likely to impair our health.