The following memo appeared in the newsletter of the West Meria Public Health Council.
"An innovative treatment has come to our attention that promises to significantly reduce absenteeism in our schools and workplaces. A study reports that in nearby East Meria, where fish consumption is very high, people visit the doctor only once or twice per year for the treatment of colds. This shows that eating a substantial amount of fish can clearly prevent colds. Furthermore, since colds are the reason most frequently given for absences from school and work, attendance levels will improve. Therefore, we recommend the daily use of a nutritional supplement derived from fish oil as a good way to prevent colds and lower absenteeism."
Write a response in which you discuss what questions would need to be answered in order to decide whether the recommendation and the argument on which it is based are reasonable. Be sure to explain how the answers to these questions would help to evaluate the recommendation.
In this report, the author alleges the efficiency of a nutritional supplement derived from fish oil in preventing colds and further asserts the capability of the supplement to lower absenteeism in local schools and workplaces. To buttress his/her recommendation, the author cites a study showing high fish consumption and low doctor-visiting frequency in Meria. We are also informed that colds are the most frequently given reason for absences from local school and work. While this may be the case, there are a number of questions regarding his lines of reasoning that requires further analysis. The argument could end up being pretty convincing or invalid in the end, depending on the answers to those questions.
To start with, while the author provides information concerning the high fish consumption and less frequent medical visits for the treatment of colds in Meria, we need to know the casual relationship between the former and the latter. For example, we need to know whether high fish consumption in Meria means that people eat a large amount of fish; in addition, detailed proof will be of great significance to determine whether people visit doctors infrequently because of a lower incidence of catching colds as opposed to other reasons, such as excessively high hospital fees. If people do eat a massive amount of fish and catch colds less often, then fish’s efficiency in preventing colds can be confirmed and the author’s recommendation is thereby more convincing.
In addition, although the writer claims that the most frequently given reason for absence from local school and work is colds, we need to ask whether people asking for absence have lied about the reasons. If colds do play a crucial role in absenteeism, then we are disposed to believe that the author’s conclusion is advisable. Otherwise, we remain doubtful of the recommendation given in the argument.
In spite of fish’s efficiency in preventing colds as well as the contribution colds make towards local absenteeism, we still need to ask whether the nutritional supplement derived from fish oil is as effective, if not more, as fish in the prevention of colds. Specifically, we need to know whether fish’s ability to prevent colds originates in its oil and not in any other parts such as the bones. Moreover, it would be of great help to know whether elements in fish remain functional after a series of artificial processes. In addition, the author would benefit from clarifying the relationship between the usage of the nutritional supplement and its efficiency in preventing colds. If it is fishbone instead of fish oil that prevents colds, or artificially processed medicine lags in efficiency, or overuse of the nutritional supplement is found to be counterproductive, then the author’s conclusion is weakened and the recommendation should therefore be rejected. Otherwise, it should be encouraged.
Only after those questions are adequately addressed can we effectively evaluate the author’s argument and reach a logically sound conclusion.