Thursday, May 10, 2007

When and how did presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich find out about the systematic review on Canada and U.S. health outcomes?

I recently posted this criticism of a systematic review of health outcomes in Canada and the U.S. and wondered if the paper was politically motivated. Other bloggers, including DB, Health Care Renewal, Medpundit and Kevin weighed in about the paper, published in the inaugural issue of Open Medicine.

On May 3 Scientific American posted an article about the paper which was predictably uncritical and largely unrevealing until the last paragraph:

This research may already be having an impact on policy debate: According to Woolhandler, Ohio democratic congressman and presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich has plans to circulate the results of this study to Congress. Woolhandler herself would like to see this study play a part in a slightly different debate—one over whether it it [sic] is better to be sick and insured in the U.S. or in Canada. "I'd like to see politicians giving up on this mythology that the quality of care for sick people in the U.S. is unique."

Woolhandler, of course, is one of the authors of the Open Medicine paper and, like the other authors I profiled here, an admirer of Canada’s health care system and an activist for adoption of a similar system in the U.S.

Dennis Kucinich is a Democratic presidential candidate. Moreover he’s a supporter of single payer health care and the co-author of HR 676, a plan for a “universal, single payer, not for profit health care system”. In principle Kucinich’s proposal is similar to Woolhandler’s and not unlike Canada’s system.

So, let’s look at a possible time line. The Scientific American article was posted May 3. Since it’s an on line article and not a post on their blog the editorial process between submission and posting likely took several days. We must then ask how many days before submission did the interview with Woolhandler take place and, how long before the interview did she know of Kucinich’s plans to distribute the study results to congress? Since Open Medicine was not launched until April 18 that didn’t give Kucinich much time to find out about the paper. How could he have searched for it? Open Medicine isn’t listed in PubMed yet. Did he search the blogs? With his busy campaign schedule and congressional duties would he have had time to do that?

Does Woolhandler have any association with Kucinich? What’s the nature of any conversations they may have had? And dare we ask: Did Kucinich learn about the paper with the help of one of its authors? The big question, and one I raised in my previous post, is whether or not this paper was submitted with political intent. The Scientific American piece lends further credence to that question.

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