Dissing Santa

December 23, 2009
Jill taylor

A press release by the folks at the British Medical Journal reports research that calls Santa on the carpet as a role model for children by promoting an unhealthy lifestyle, which negatively affects public health.

Several news outlets picked up on it, and I’m sure that the researcher referenced is getting hate mail by the sack full over what looks like a joke — if you read the press release, you’ll note that it points out that the “analysis” was performed without using peer-reviewed studies. Dr. Grills - the researcher does exist - isn’t really being serious, with the exception of perhaps one point: after a number of weeks of shopping, decorating, and planning for family gatherings, “Santa” probably really does need a brandy.

There are so many lessons in this, I’m not sure where to start. Suffice to say, if something gets reported, the general public tends to believe it. Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times created fervor this year by calling attention to the “dangers” associated plastic containers, subsequently earning himself the dubious honor of being named the worst “science” journalist of the year by STATS.

These examples illustrate of our need to raise the level of literacy with respect to research practices and health issues, and everyone associated with pediatrics can be a part of that effort. You’re probably knee deep in it every day.

With that thought, let me wish you a wonderful holiday season — no matter what you celebrate, may your time with your family be peaceful, warm and happy. As a bonus, you can rest easy that the rest of the research world is likely to stay off of Santa’s back for the rest of the year. Leave Santa all the brandy you think he deserves.

A press release by the folks at the British Medical Journal reports research that calls Santa on the carpet as a role model for children by promoting an unhealthy lifestyle, which negatively affects public health.