It's not too late for Jenny McCarthy to redeem herself.
The amount of harm the TV host, actor and model has inflicted as a result of her personal campaign against the imaginary danger of childhood vaccination-caused autism is not measurable. And if McCarthy's misguided opposition to childhood vaccinations led to the harm of even one person, that's too many.
Yet, her stance on childhood vaccinations has turned her into a rock star in the anti-vaccination crowd, and now has she taken a job with a national talk show.
I'd like to see her use her new position for good and take up a new health care cause, fighting the real danger of antibiotics overuse. McCarthy could repudiate her stance on vaccines on the show. The subsequent media attention that move would draw could be used to promote the effort to reduce overuse of antibiotics, something that is in desperate need of publicity and action.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is pushing hard for providers and the public to start treating antibiotics like a precious, limited resource, instead of like miracle pills with an unending amount of effectiveness. About 23,000 people die each year from antibiotic-resistant infections, and 2 million are infected by them, the CDC conservatively estimates in a new report on the subject.
Doctors and other providers have to become more informed and measured in their prescribing of antibiotics, that's where the biggest effect could be felt.
The consequences of inaction on the matter are "potentially catastrophic," according to the CDC's recently issued report, "Antibiotic Resistance Threats in the U.S., 2013," which is a must-read for C-suite hospital executives and primary care doctors.
If four strategies recommended in the report aren't enacted, the world could reenter a period in which there are no effective antibiotics, according to the CDC's Steve Solomon, M.D., who I recently interviewed for an upcoming H&HN article.
"We are right now at the last line of defense," says Solomon, who is director of CDC's Office of Antimicrobial Resistance.
But if the country's doctors and patients are able to stymie their urge to use antibiotics inappropriately, if better infection prevention efforts are put in place and if infections are tracked more completely, the growth of the resistant strains of infection could be slowed enough to give drug makers the time to develop new ones that work, the CDC wrote states.
A big part of that success would mean trying to convince the general public that it's not a good idea to take an antibiotic as a knee-jerk reaction.
And if Jenny McCarthy can influence medical decision-making in the public based on non-existent or incorrect information, just think what she could do with medical decisions based on fact.