Junkfood Science: A glimpse inside the mind of a public health professional

February 03, 2009

A glimpse inside the mind of a public health professional

BBC News published an opinion piece today from Dr. Alan Maryon Davis, president of the Faculty of Public Health*. In doing so, BBC News provided a public service by revealing what public health professionals believe about us. You have to read it to believe.

Dr. Davis wrote:

Why we need more nannying

It seems that not a day goes past without the government launching yet another health campaign, issuing another lifestyle guideline or passing some new law banning this or that threat to our safety or well-being. Is the government 'nannying' us too much? Is it trying too hard to micro-manage our health? I say firmly - no. On the contrary, there's plenty of evidence that people want to see the government doing more to help us avoid big killers like heart disease, stroke and cancer… I see an increasing acceptance that we, all of us, need not only more information and guidance from government, but also more legislation to save us from ourselves…

We need to press for more legislation to improve and protect health and well-being. We are happy to see bans… it was ordinary people who really tipped the balance to change the law. It was the steady shift in public opinion that gave legislators the courage. It proved that we, the people, can have a powerful influence on the way laws can be made on our behalf.

I strongly believe we should exercise that influence much more. We need to press for more legislation… We need a big stick to curb the worst excesses… The government has got to stop pussyfooting around and get tough. Take food labelling. For years the health lobby has been trying to get a simple standardised 'traffic-light' scheme on the front of packaged foods so that shoppers can instantly tell if an item is high, medium or low in fat, sugar and salt… The government really must stop dithering and impose a simple mandatory scheme that everyone can understand…

What next?... I would like to see …. Oh, a whole raft of other legislation for health. This is not 'nannying'. This is responsible government acting on behalf of a consenting public. Campaigns, guidelines and voluntary codes aren't enough. We need more laws to ensure that the world in which we live, work and play will help promote and protect our health. So should we be given more guidance on how to live? Or should it be up to individuals to look after their own heath?

This does not appear to be satire.

* For readers outside the UK, Dr. Davis has been an advocate of the government’s Change4lLife anti-obesity program and made British news last summer when the Faculty of Public Health’s annual conference featured discussions equating the obesity epidemic to climate change and that obesity’s catastrophic effects will “require nothing less than a fundamental policy overhaul to address.”

The Faculty of Public Health is the leading professional group for public health professionals in the UK. According to its website: “Public health is about improving and protecting the health of groups of people, rather than about treating individual patients. Public health professionals must look at the bigger picture and then take action to promote health lifestyles, prevent disease, protect and improve general health, and improve healthcare services.”

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