'Today' Show Claims Americans' Lack of Universal Health Care Is Shrinking Them

April 2nd, 2007 4:42 PM

Sometimes bias shows up in the most unexpected spots. During a segment about Americans losing out to the Dutch when it comes to average height, NBC's Dawna Friesen cited a Democratic talking point, as one of the reasons. In the 7:30am half hour of this morning's 'Today' show Friesen explored the reasons why Americans are "shrinking" in contrast to the Dutch and other Western Europeans. Along with diet and nutrition Friesen blamed our shorter statures on lack of universal healthcare:

"And there's health care. Everyone in the Netherlands has access to it whereas in the U.S., 47 million people have no health insurance."

The following is the full segment as it aired on the April 2, 'Today' show:

Matt Lauer: "Honey, I Shrunk the Americans. Not a joke. The USA is no longer number one when it comes to walking tall. NBC's Dawna Friesen explains."

[On screen headline: "Shrinking Americans, A Tall Tale"]

Dawna Friesen: "Paul Von Sprendel [sp] is living proof the Dutch have reached new heights. So we brought in a specialist sound person to."

Paul Von Sprendel: "It's someone I can look in the eye."

Friesen: "At 7 feet he is used to ducking through doorways and struggling with seats."

Von Sprendel: "This is a challenge."

Friesen: "Because according to new research the Dutch are now the tallest people in the world."

Prof. John Komlos, University of Munich economic historian: "The Americans have now become shorter than most Western European populations."

Friesen: "To rule out recent immigration researchers only looked at people born in the U.S. and non-Hispanics. They found the average white-American man is one-and-three-quarters inches shorter than the average Dutch man. The average white-American woman is two-and-a-quarter inches shorter than her Dutch counterpart. African-American women fared even worse. Their average height hasn't increased since the 1930s."

Komlos: "Health and height go hand-in-hand together."

Friesen: "Americans, they say, spend nearly half their food budget on meals outside the home, often on junk food. While the Dutch, like the Kumen family, who are all over six-feet tall, tend to eat more nutritious home cooked meals. But you, most nights have dinner at home?"

[Dutch woman: "Yeah."]

Friesen: "Obesity is also a factor. Overweight children tend to reach puberty earlier and stop growing sooner. And there's health care. Everyone in the Netherlands has access to it whereas in the U.S., 47 million people have no health insurance."

Komlos: "There are some problems in the medical system and nutrition."

Friesen: "Height, they say, is an indicator of how well or badly a population is doing. If there is a message to Americans what, what do you think it would be?"

Von Sprendel: "Good food, absolutely good food and of course health care."

Friesen: "While being tall isn't always easy the Dutch are slowly adapting. Even changing building codes. Because if the Kumen family is any indication the next generation will be even taller. For Today, Dawna Friesen, NBC News, the Netherlands."