Parents are very vulnerable consumers. They want the best for their children and worry about their future. Companies and organizations feed on these fears, selling them ideas/products which are unneeded, do not work as intended and/or are downright harmful.
I believe that what parents want and what they often get, are different things. We have little to no regulation for DTC internet advertisements and companies can manipulate the truth and misrepresent information with very little liability. Today we have access to so much information thanks to the internet but only a small fraction of this is tested, verified and/or scientific.
When I was initially working through this material, I thought about the harmful ideas parents are sold by companies or groups regarding health products (perhaps it’s because I recently did a project on vaccination.)
Vaccination is a highly controversial consumer health item in the US. Many parents are choosing to opt out of childhood vaccination due to anxieties about vaccine safety, even though childhood vaccinations have been proven safe for the large majority through extensive testing.
A newborn is supposed to receive a Hepatitis B virus (HBV) vaccine 12 hours after birth. HBV is a contagious disease spread through blood and other bodily fluids. Infants are at high risk of infection and 90% of them who contract the initial disease will develop lifelong symptoms, often resulting in liver cancer and cirrhosis (CDC, 2016). The disease is preventable only with vaccination which is 95% effective in averting HBV (NCIRD, n.d.).
So, why would a parent, who wants the best for their child refuse this vaccine? Ideas such as “vaccines cause autism” or “they inject your children with toxic chemicals” are being ‘sold’ to parents based on misrepresented or false data. It’s clear that any parent worried about vaccinations is thinking about their child’s health and their goal is to protect them from possible harm. But they are getting their information from the wrong sources and making important health issues based on the unscientific information.
In this example, what the parent wants; protect their child from injury, and what they are getting: false information meant to instill fear, are very different.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016). The ABCs of Hepatitis. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/resources/professionals/pdfs/abctable.pd
National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, Centers for Disease Control, and Prevention. The Pink Book-Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases (pp. 149-174). Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/pinkbook/downloads/hepb.pdf