Friday, 22 August 2014

Today's public health lies...the Faculty of Public Health on rickets and malnutrition


The Faculty of Public Health - a sort of training institute for health fascists - is on about rickets:

The Faculty of Public Health said conditions like rickets were becoming more apparent because people could not afford quality food in their diet.

This is of course the same Faculty of Public Health that urges us never to go out in the sunshine without first daubing ourselves in Factor 100 cream. And then we should only go out in the sun for a few fleeting moments or else we will all die a horrible death from skin cancers.

So what is it that causes rickets? Ah, yes! It's a lack of Vitamin D. And where does the Vitamin D come from:

The main sources of vitamin D are: 

Sunlight – your skin produces vitamin D when it is exposed to the sun. We get most of our vitamin D this way
Food – vitamin D is also found in some foods such as oily fish, eggs and fortified breakfast cereals. 

So rickets is caused by lack of a vitamin we get from going out in the sunshine, eating eggs and eating cornflakes. I don't think for a second that either eggs or cornflakes don't feature in the diet of most kids - so it's our obsession with covering children from head to toe to protect them from the sun that's causing the problem not 'food poverty'.  And I also know that the people from the Faculty of Public Health know this - indeed they could discover these fascinating truths from NHS Choices. They prefer instead to lie so as to make a political point.

Their second lie is a more subtle one, it's about malnutrition.

It comes after health figures recently revealed a 19% increase in the number of people admitted to hospital with malnutrition over the past year.

Now there has been a sharp increase in hospital admissions for malnutrition in the UK and this is something that should concern us. But, just like rickets, it really hasn't got very much to do with 'food poverty'. Rather, it is connected to changed diagnosis and to an increasing elderly population:

People with certain long-term health conditions can't always retain all the nutrients they need - particularly the elderly, who might also struggle to make the trip to the supermarket. With this in mind, the higher incidence of malnutrition might also reflect broader demographic trends, including the fact that the UK's population is ageing. The most recent Nutrition Screening Survey showed that those aged 65 plus were more likely to be malnourished than those who were younger. In addition, it may also be that hospitals are now more likely to screen a patient for symptoms of malnourishment.  

This makes a great deal more sense and tells us that perhaps we should be considering how to ensure that single elderly people living in the community are eating properly (and drinking enough fluid - dehydration is a common factor in cold-related deaths in older people). But again, it doesn't fit with the political agenda of the Faculty of Public Health - they want to have us believe that the problem is the result of welfare reform and rising food prices rather than more complex issues relating to an ageing society or the unintended consequence of public health campaigns around skin cancer.

What I get most annoyed about here is that public health professionals know full well what the underlying factors are for the increase in rickets and for the rising incidence of malnutrition but then chose to ignore these factors and make misleading claims - lies - about food poverty and ill-health. It may well be the case that many poorer people are eating a less than healthy diet but the figures on rickets and malnutrition do not tell us this - they have other causes.

1 comment:

Ivan D said...

I believe that the huge waste of tax payers money that is Public Health England was set up quite recently by a Conservative dominated coalition government. As public health is increasingly political and as many of its more vocal acolytes are quite a long way left of centre, I am wondering why. If these people did anything useful, I might understand.