Jamie Oliver: Teach every child about food

In the latest TED Prize wish, Jamie Oliver, the “Naked Chef”, talks about teaching every child about food. His wish is:

I wish for your help to create a strong, sustainable movement to educate every child about food, inspire families to cook again and empower people everywhere to fight obesity.

Although I have a child and I’m obviously interested in his idea, I was also interested in the simple bar chart depicting the leading causes of death in the USA. In the tiny Flash video, the text is unfortunately barely legible and I was interested in knowing where he got his data from.

Leading causes of death in the USA from Jamie Oliver's TED talk

The answer is really easy: the leading causes of death in the USA are compiled every year by the (American) National Center for Health Statistics and the results are available on their FastStats website. So, for 2007 (the latest results at the time of writing), the 15 leading causes of death in the USA are (ordered by decreasing number of cases):

Rank Cause Number
1. Diseases of heart * 616,067
2. Malignant neoplasms (cancers) * 562,875
3. Cerebrovascular diseases * 135,952
4. Chronic lower respiratory diseases 127,924
5. Accidents (unintentional injuries) 123,706
6. Alzheimer’s disease 74,632
7. Diabetes mellitus * 71,382
8. Influenza and pneumonia 52,717
9. Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome and nephrosis 46,448
10. Septicemia 34,828
11. Intentional self-harm (suicide) 34,598
12. Chronic liver disease and cirrhosis 29,165
13. Essential hypertension and hypertensive renal disease 23,965
14. Parkinson’s disease 20,058
15. Assault (homicide) 18,361

The exact ICD-10 codes are in this report ; you can find their exact meaning here. Causes with an asterisk are related to food intake, according to Jamie Oliver.

Now you have the numbers, the origin of the data and the methodology used to collect these data. You can watch the presentation:

You’ll find a critique of Jamie Oliver’s talk by Presentation Zen.

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