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What Do You Want From Your Health Blog?

What to blog about for tomorrow?

There's the disturbing report that 1 out of every 5 American 4-year-olds is obese. Or the news that having a big belly may increase odds of suffering from Restless Legs Syndrome. Perhaps a commentary on today's fascinating article about the trend among food manufacturers toward using as few ingredients as possible.

What would you most like to read about?

A health blog is a relatively new phenomenon at the Washington Post; we (my colleague Rob Stein, who writes Thursdays' entries, and I) launched this one a year ago today. We've blogged about all kinds of things: The first entry was about having automated external defibrillators in homes; yesterday's was about making yogurt in a crockpot.

We've often done primary reporting on health studies, presenting them to you as news stories like those in the regular newspaper. We've also commented on trends or on stories that have been reported by other journalists and that seem to warrant amplification. On Tuesdays we focus on nutrition-related matters, as that's the day my "Eat, Drink and Be Healthy" column appears in the Health section; I try to bounce them off each other.

Sometimes we get lots of reader comments. Sometimes we get none.

Which raises the question: What do you readers want and expect from online forums like this one? Because, as much as we enjoy what we do, this blog only works if it interests and engages you.

Please take a moment to vote here and comment below, letting me and Rob know what kinds of health stories you'd like us to pursue. We'll follow up a week from today and share what we've learned from our readers.

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  April 8, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  About the Blog , General Health  
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Something I thing would be really useful is some balanced perspective on health studies reporting - studies with dramatic results tend to get lots of sensational coverage. I think a voice saying "Remember, this study shows correlation, not causality" or "the participants were all white males" or "the findings have yet to be replicated" would help me in evaluating the data presented.

Posted by: crunchyfrog | April 8, 2009 8:21 AM | Report abuse

I have asked for this multiple times to no avail. Can you PLEASE offer a printer-friendly option for this column? Everything else on the Health page is printer-friendly except for this column. Both the NY Times and the WSJ have printer-friendly health blogs. I simply don't understand why this can't be done.

Posted by: dan35 | April 8, 2009 10:23 AM | Report abuse

We've been eating more and more raw foods, thanks to Dr. Oz, and I have a zillion questions about it that I can't find great answers for. I don't know if it would be a good fit for the blog, but here are some:

Some vegetables are better for you cooked than raw (ex: sweet potatoes, collard greens, etc.) Can we have a list of these?
Does a high-powered blender (Vitamix, Blendtec) really break down cell walls to unlock more nutrition that other methods of preparation? How does that compare to cooking?
Are chia seeds as good for you as the chia seed companies say?
Does freezing nuts & fruits have any effect on their nutrition?
Raw foods recipes are often extremely caloric (heavy on nuts, seeds, avocados), yet the people themselves often tend to be underweight. How does this happen and what does it say about the calories in/calories out rule?


Posted by: sarahabc | April 8, 2009 11:04 AM | Report abuse

As an Englishman living here in the U.S. I just wonder if there is a reason why you Americans become very defensive when talk of a national health service rears its head?

Having been brought up under the system and having recently been home to use it I consider that it is the right of every citizen of a nation that the nation bears some responsibility for the health of its people. This is not socialist and it certainly is not communistic; it is a basic human right.It is also a matter of the common good.

Notwithstanding, a national health service also ensures that the health of the entire nation is maintained. We are aware that some 40m Americans have no health insurance cover. To that we must add the number of people who cannot get insurance due to some pre-existing illness or a job that cannot be insured. A national health service provides medical help to everyone regardless of their condition whether physical or financial. A national health service improves the health of the whole nation as nobody is precluded from using it.

What is wrong with this country when ideology is placed on a higher plane than the health of its people? Is the national preoccupation with income and greed standing in the way of national health? And, does America enjoy appearing as a third world nation in relation to the health of it's peoples?

Posted by: anglostyle | April 8, 2009 12:31 PM | Report abuse

Vita-Mix has proven that the Vita-Mix machine breaks down the cell wall much further than by chewing food.

Using the Vita-Mix may enhance the bioavailability of essential nutrients in fruits and vegetables.

Posted by: Vita-Mix | April 8, 2009 1:49 PM | Report abuse

Crunchyfrog - I agree; add another vote to the voice of reason in health (science in general) reporting.

Anglostyle - I think we Americans get so upset at the idea of a national health service (which is socialist, and I'm just fine with that) because it challenges our idea that money should be able to buy *anything.* We like to believe that if we ever get "enough" money we'll be happy/thin/healthy/satisfied (insert your adjective of choice). Our philosophical history is based on allowing people to rise or fall on their own merits (instead of being born to privilege as happened in England in the 1700s) and having a small-ish, unobstrusive government that doesn't make many demands on our cash (unlike we experienced in the 1700s as a colony). We've internalized those ideas into our national consciousness.

FWIW - I am strongly in favor of a national health plan (not universal health insurance, either, but national health care). The reasons for it are sound and the reasons against it are entirely profit driven by the insurance companies. But you asked for why it worries us and I tried to answer that question.

Posted by: esleigh | April 8, 2009 7:09 PM | Report abuse

I've been reading this column from day one, and I like the mix you have.

The rest of the Post is full of news about celebrities, political posturing, or one-in-a-million accidents: information that is neither actionable nor likely to directly influence our lives in any meaningful way. But your column provides information that is directly relevant to our quality of life and is often actionable. And you add both perspective and analysis, rather than parroting the shallow, over-hyped, and scientifically illiterate reports that move over the wire services.

Bottom line: you've got the right formula. Keep it up!

Posted by: DupontJay | April 8, 2009 7:48 PM | Report abuse

esleigh -- Very well said. I would agree with you on your observations.

Part of my hesistancy about adopting an nhs is that I wonder if it actually works as well as people say it does. Sure, everyone has insurance, but how effective can that setup work when one system has the burden of providing healthcare for each and every citizen? i would love to read a good analytical report that addresses this topic. someone would have to show me that even though nhs isn't nearly perfect, it's imperfections are fewer than the imperfections of the American system. If they were close, I would have to say, I would be loathe to completely overhall our entire healthcare system for an experiment.

And I don't like socialist systems either. I do like small government, I do want less intrusion. Problem is, you can't trust businesses anymore, so we are increasingly giving more control to the government hoping they'll be able to fix things.

Can anyone recommend a good study/resource for me to learn more about this?

Posted by: dan35 | April 9, 2009 10:15 AM | Report abuse

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