Sunday, 28 November 2010

UK Public Health Reforms - a lesson in optimism.

Andrew Lansley, the UK secretary of state for health, says that his white paper, to be issued on Tuesday will offer ‘a radical new approach to public health, which has struggled against a tide of rising obesity rates – Britain has one of the highest in Europe – drinking, smoking and sexual health problems.’
This ‘radical approach’ could include the sales of cigarettes in plain white packaging. Indeed as politicians go, Lansley is a Goliath of optimism – if he truly believes that sales of this most lethal and addictive of legal substances in plain packaging will reduce the 80,000 deaths per year attributable to tobacco. I am unconvinced that the reason young people start smoking is due to pretty packaging considering that statements like ‘Smoking kills’ currently displayed in packets have little effect.
Another way that the government plans to ‘protect people from themselves’ is to encourage youngsters to walk to school with an incentive programme offering treats such as cinema tickets. Swipe cards to be used at check points on lampposts en route have been suggested. The cost of vandal proof card readers  strategically placed to encompass every child’s walking route must surely be prohibitive. And what about those children who have no choice but to be driven to school – either due to distance or a parent who works and needs to drop them off on their way to the office or station? So these poor young things will be deprived of this reward scheme –maybe they will seek comfort in the tuck shop?
Dear Mr Lansley – I know you mean well – but please, stay in the real world.  I am an insatiable optimist and have been likened to Pollyanna on more than one occasion. But if there is a case of serious Pollyanna complex – Mr Lansley takes the biscuit – oops – sorry – the low calorie, healthy snack.


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