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Spitz, Jenner Share Health Histories on TV. (P.S.: They're Still Kind of Cute.)

Mark Spitz (Reuters/Mario Anzuoni)

The mere thought of Mark Spitz sends me right back to 7th grade, when I cut pictures of the great Olympic swimmer out of The Washington Post and glued them to the brown-paper-bag cover of my geography book. I hung in my bedroom a life-size poster of the dreamy athlete wearing his red-white-and-blue Speedo, his seven -- count 'em! -- gold medals dangling from ribbons around his neck. He was my adolescent ideal of manly manhood.

So you can be darned sure I'll be tuning in Sunday at noon to see Spitz and that other Olympian dreamboat, decathlon gold-medalist Bruce Jenner, as they share their stories about health challenges they've faced.

Seems Spitz discovered at age 38 that, despite his incredible physical fitness, he had high cholesterol that he needed to manage in order to avoid heart disease. And Jenner suffered as a child from attention-deficit disorder and dyslexia.

Bruce Jenner (AP Photo/Matt Sayles)

The athletes are the latest celebrities to appear on "Sharing Miracles", a half hour of paid programming produced and supported by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), a D.C.-based organization representing the nation's major pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. The show, which has featured the late Tony Snow talking about his battle with colon cancer and actor Jerry Mathers (yes, the Beave) revealing his struggle with diabetes, among many others, is clearly an attempt to improve big pharma's image, adding a warm and caring sheen to an industry tarnished by public perceptions of greed and heartlessness. But the stories are interesting and uplifting and worth hearing.

Each episode is peppered with pitches for PhRMA's Partnership for Prescription Assistance, which the Health section recently featured and which helps people who are unable to pay for prescription drugs get access to medications (the 5 millionth person to benefit from the PPA will also appear on this Sunday's show), and ends with a representative of a pharmaceutical company talking about the disease(s) at hand and the drugs and treatments that are available. (Regular folks like you and me can go to the Web site and share our own health-related tales and read those that others have posted).

It's kind of like an infomercial, I suppose. But PhRMA's communications director Ken Johnson promises that no specific drugs or products are ever mentioned in the show. "We don't sell anything," he says, "and we don't pass the plate at the end."

The show airs Sunday from noon to 12:30 on WUSA-TV, a CBS station. If you can't catch it live, go to the PhRMA Web site for instructions on how to get a free DVD sent your way.

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  August 1, 2008; 12:00 AM ET
Categories:  General Health  
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This is a great article and show and a testament of how when advertising is set aside to favor education we all benefit.

I hope to see more medical educational series like this one in the future.

Posted by: Scott | August 2, 2008 12:55 PM | Report abuse

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