Oprah's Health Advice: Take it or leave it?

BlogHer Original Post

I'm not a lover (or a hater) of the Oprah Show, when she has something I'm interested in I watch, otherwise I don't. Since I write about health and wellness, I do tend to be more interested in her health related shows. Now there is a Newsweek article addressing her many controversial and sometimes misleading health related shows. No surprise, there are a lot of women blogging about whether or not Oprah's advice is good advice.

Here is an excerpt from the Newsweek article - Why Health Advice on 'Oprah' Could Make You Sick...

Oprah routinely grabs viewers with the sort of tales of the strange and absurd that might be found a few clicks over on Maury Povich or Jerry Springer: women who leave their husbands for other women (another recent Oprah episode); a 900-pound mom (ditto). But there is a difference. Oprah makes her audience feel virtuous for gaping at the misfortunes of others. What would be sniffed at as seamy on Maury is somehow praised as anthropology on Oprah. This is Oprah's special brilliance. She is a gifted entertainer, but she makes it seem as though that is beside the point. Oprah is not here to amuse you, she is here to help you. To help you understand your feelings; drop those unwanted pounds; look and feel younger; get your thyroid under control; to smooth your thighs, nip and tuck your wrinkles, awaken your senses and achieve spiritual tranquillity so that you can at last be free to "Live Your Best Life."

Oprah takes these things very seriously. They are, after all, the answers she hopes to find for herself. If Oprah has an exquisite ear for the cravings and anxieties of her audience, it is because she shares them. Her own lifelong quest for love, meaning and fulfillment plays out on her stage each day. In an age of information overload, she offers herself as a guide through the confusion.

I found the article interesting, but I'm not entirely convinced that Oprah is doing a disservice to her viewers by bringing attention to alternative (and often controversial) health topics. Are some of these ideas a little flaky? Yes. Would Oprah's viewers be better served if she only towed the AMA (American Medical Association) and FDA (Food and Drug Administration) line? Probably not.

Here is some of what other women are blogging on this issue.

Colleen Fitcher from Fit Fare - Next on Oprah: A Grain of Salt...

The big cover story in this week’s Newsweek is a look at the health information — apparently in most cases, misinformation — propagated by Oprah Winfrey’s signature television talk show:

From Winter Ramblings - Crazy Talk?

This well-written piece zeros in on the controversial advice offered on Oprah's show in the past, including by Suzanne Somers (hormone replacement), and Jenny McCarthy (autism).

Oprah does many things well, which the Newsweek piece also highlights. But this week's article represents bold coverage that some believe was long overdue. I believe that when it comes to special needs coverage in the media, including on Oprah, the coverage could and should be more balanced, more thorough and more inclusive of many disabilities, and presented by an array of experienced, knowledgeable voices and activists, not just Hollywood celebrities.

From Jezebel - Is Oprah Selling Snake Oil?

Health is unpredictable and scary, and it's natural to want to rely on "my science," to crave a certain feeling of control. Oprah offers that control, telling viewers, "we have the right to demand a better quality of life for ourselves. And that's what doctors have got to learn to start respecting." But this control is an illusion. We can't demand better health from our doctors, from supplements, or from the universe. At some point, we have to take what comes our way. Oprah's message of "living your best life" has been helpful to many people, but sometimes your best life comes from accepting your lot, and looking at your options with a clear, critical eye.

From Ungirdled Passion - Newsweek Blasts Oprah!

My hands trembled as I read the cover of this week’s Newsweek I pulled from the mailbox (see right). There was a photo of an almost crazed and emotional Oprah with the title, “CRAZY TALK – OPRAH, WACKY CURES & YOU.” They were calling Oprah, THE Oprah, crazy? Her advice “wacky?” This was utter blasphemy. Oprah is like God. Think about it. They're both worshiped by practically everybody, they’re both everywhere, and their bank accounts are pretty evenly matched. This was obviously a joke or the work of the devil. I quickly flipped to the feature to find out which.

It was no joke. Newsweek essentially calls her out for providing what they say many experts believe to be reckless, potentially harmful medical advice. They question the accuracy and credibility of information presented on bio-identical hormones, cosmetic procedures, thyroid dysfunction and much, much more. They even take on, gulp, The Secret! It is one of the longest features I can remember reading in Newsweek. I wonder if it’s fair to call Oprah’s show “Crazy Talk.”

Peggy from The Blog That Ate Manhattan - Oprah - I'm not a doctor, but I play a really bad one on TV...

Oprah's embrace of the Woo-Woo factor in health hasn't served either herself or her viewers. By giving her stage over to wackos like hormone-crazy Suzanne Somers and anti-vaccine nut Jenny McCarthy, while treating legitimate medical authorities as nothing more than naysayers, Oprah has behaved irresponsibly and abused the huge power that the American TV viewing public has bestowed upon her as the Queen of the daytime talk show.

Oprah's response to the Newsweek article is self-serving and disingenuous. She hides behind what she calls the 'intelligence" of her viewers to sift through the crap she presents them to find what's right for them.

For 23 years, my show has presented thousands of topics that reflect the human experience, including doctors' medical advice and personal health stories that have prompted conversations between our audience members and their health care providers. I trust the viewers, and I know that they are smart and discerning enough to seek out medical opinions to determine what may be best for them.

I believe my viewers understand the medical information presented on the show is just that—information—not an endorsement or prescription.

From Jessica Grose at XXfactor - Taking Health Advice From Celebrities Is Not Too Bright...

The authors of the Newsweek article argue that by allowing Suzanne Somers on her show to spout off about "nanotechnology patches" unchallenged by medical professionals, Oprah is tacitly condoning Somers' wackadoo advice. Though Oprah is arguably the most powerful woman in America, I find it hard to believe that more than one or two of her millions of audience members would run out and buy syringes to start injecting their hoo-has with estrogen just because someone on the Oprah show recommended it.

What do you think about Oprah's advice? Take it or leave it?

Here are a few other posts I've done on Oprah related topics...

Contributing Editor Catherine Morgan
at Catherine-Morgan.com and Women4Hope

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