Sunday, 15 January 2012

Reasons not to be cheerful in the UK this week.

Oh dear – it’s difficult to for me to maintain my usual sunny outlook and optimistic nature this week.
Psychologists have dubbed 16th January as ‘Blue Monday’, in the UK labelling it ‘the  most depressing day of the year’ (post-Christmas gloom, credit card bills coming in, new year’s resolution already broken etc. etc.)

There’s plenty of depressing news this week too. The new high speed rail link, HS2 has been approved by the government. Cutting a swathe through beautiful countryside and disrupting urban communities, apparently the £33 billion price tag is worth it to reduce the travelling time from London to Birmingham to 49 minutes. Living in the Chilterns (for my overseas readers, unspoilt rolling green hills and picture postcard villages), which is in the path of this development, I could be accused of nimbyism (Not In My Back Yard). Lucky for me, I live some distance from the route, but even if my outlook was affected, I would like to think that if this investment (that will bring no financial return until 2026), was for the greater good, I would support it. But I really don’t understand how anyone can justify this huge spend on a tiny part of the UK travel infrastructure, when there are so many more worthy recipients for the public purse.

Another cause for concern is the push for a referendum in Scotland to vote for complete independence from the UK. My father was Scottish and my mother English so I have a genuine affection for both countries and hate to contemplate the break-up of the UK. One bonus of devolution would be the health statistics for what would be left of the UK would improve. The Scots are the least healthy of the ‘home countries’ with higher rates of heart disease, obesity and diabetes. They drink more, eat less healthy food and smoke more north of the border with England. But, my Scottish cousins, despite your unhealthy habits I’d still rather have you as part of the UK, and the English have little cause to be smug about the state of their health either.

What really depressed me this week was a story told me by my friends who live in Manchester, the home of my favourite football team. They were in restaurant recently and saw a very young baby, in a high chair, being fed a cheeseburger by her obese mother. Yes – a cheeseburger! Barely old enough to eat solid food, this poor unsuspecting tot was probably being set on a path to an unhealthy existence and a life blighted by substandard wellbeing. If public health predictions are right, she is likely to be overweight by the time she goes to school, obese in her teen years (currently 20%) and possibly smoking (20%) and binge-drinking (50%) to add insult to injury.

I would feel so much happier if an additional  £33 billion was spent on finding ways to educate, encourage, bribe, whatever is needed to persuade parents to do the right thing by their children and start healthy habits from day one.

Now that would be a good investment.


Patrick Keady said...

Hi Marcia,

Sad that the very young baby was being fed a cheesburger although I like your last paragraph. We could look to Cuban health system for some ideas.

It delivers excellent results on a shoestring annual per capita health (2007) expenditure of $260 (£130) – less than a 10th of Britain’s $3,065 and 4% of America’s $6,543.

The NHS has traditionally been about keeping us alive. Hospital intensive care units take priority in the public mind over exercise campaigns and cheese burgers.

Unable to afford much in the way of hi-tech, Cuba focuses its efforts instead on keeping its people well and picking up illness early – when it’s easier and cheaper to treat.

But even more impressive is the ratio of GPs – to patients. Cuba has about one GP for every 175 people. In Britain we have about one to 435. Every Cuban will have a medical centre nearby where there is a surgery with a GP and a nurse. It makes seeking medical help easy and therefore diagnosis and treatment rapid.

One of the factors behind the relatively poor prognosis for women with breast cancer living in deprived areas of the UK is that they do not go to see a doctor early enough. In Cuba, on the other hand, it can be hard to avoid your GP.

Chairman Chegwin said...

Re Cuba, the truth is actually somewhat different I'm afraid. While the country does boast some excellent healthcare facilities, these are exclusively for the use of foreigners, who pay with hard currency for those services. Countries such as Cuba that have a strong medical tourism profile, often fail to invest in the general population's health needs. Don't swallow the propaganda.

As for the points you make Marcia, I agree entirely!

Finchers Consulting said...

Thank you for your comments Patrick and Rob. I have to be careful not to be too judgemental about the baby and the cheeseburger - far too many Quality Street and mince pies consumed by Finchers health over Christmas!

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