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Monday, 15 July 2013

A Stick With Which To Beat Us All

The latest buzzword in Public Health and government circles these days is "Health Inequalities." It's sounds authoritative and catchy, I must agree. Brandished by interfering nannying tyrants the world over, it is the fashionable, socialist stick with which to beat us all into submission. There's probably an official definition somewhere, yet put in the simplest possible terms it means "certain people die before other certain people and the government must do something about that because it's not fair!" Here's a helpful graphic:

So where do you fit into this Health Inequalities thing? Fortunately for women and men who live in England, Public Health England has created this interactive portal, called Longer Lives, to help you understand this. It has a Google-powered map and everything. Feel free to take a few moments and interact with the "Early Death" map (as the NHS calls it). It's fun. For even more fun, see: "The Atlas of Risk."

With few exceptions, what you find is that those who live in socio-economic deprived regions of England are most likely to die before reaching the age of 75. (Note: In case you were wondering, Public Health England and our governments have relatively recently determined that any death before the age of 75-years-old is "premature." I'll cover that shortly.)  In other words, the "certain people who die before other certain people" are the poorer folks in England.

Before one gets too carried away by this startling revelation, it's worth pointing out here the wealthiest people always have, on average, outlived the plebs. There are dozens of reasons why this is so -- I suspect you don't need me to explain them all. Suffice it to say that the wealthiest have always enjoyed better diets with much higher-quality foods, better and typically safer working conditions, better sanitation and living conditions, better educational opportunities, and most important better access to the best possible healthcare and treatments than poorer folk.

So when one speaks of Health Inequalities, one is saying that it's not fair that wealthy people get a better deal and will live longer than others, and because of that, the government needs to step in and do something. That's pretty much the concept of Health Inequalities.

There is only way I can think of to achieve near-total health equality:  force everybody to live equal lives. Nobody can have more than anybody else. We all must eat the same foods and do the same exercises. We all must receive the same level of healthcare. All people must live their life according to the scriptures of Public Health. No drinking. No smoking. No risks nor anything that may cause an inequality. There are no differences between any of us. In other words, it's socialism. Through and through, it's a socialist concept.

Nevertheless, nobody believes that a near-total health equality is possible. But they -- they being Public Health -- do believe that significant reductions in Health Inequalities can be made if we all do exactly as they tell us. So they will prioritise and target the smokers, the drinkers, and the overweight, which they've been doing for years now. But to be most effective, Public Health must deliberately target the poorest in society -- those in the socio-economic deprived regions particularly -- and with the stick of "Health Inequalities" and a goal of nobody dying before 75-years-old, Public Health can then request government to force the poorest to conform to the gospel of clean, healthy living.

I suppose, cynically (and perhaps a bit unfairly?), that the goal is to ensure the poorest amongst us can live just that little bit longer, in order to work a few years more so our governments can squeeze out as much tax as they possibly can from them, with the added bonus that downtrodden poor can have a little more time to better appreciate just how wonderful their lives have been, right up until their death at age 75.

Maybe. I could be wrong. I suppose we'll see what happens over the next few years as more and more people like Rebecca Taylor MEP continue screeching about Health Inequalities and that "SOMETHING MUST BE DONE!" One thing that is certainly missing from the data that is used to determine these regional Health Inequalities is what people's careers were and the working hazards they faced. Because the type of work you do must also factor in a person's longevity. If your career has you in a semi-enclosed space breathing in automotive exhaust or other particulate matter all day long for many decades, you may not live as long as the person who sat in a clean, air-conditioned office for most of his career and only ventured outside for the occasional Venti latte at Starbucks.

So, while I'm very concerned how Public Health and others will implement reductions in Health Inequalities across England and everywhere else in the world, what is almost of equal concern to me is defining "premature death" as any death before the age of 75.  Oh, how I would have loved to be a fly-on-the-wall when the figure was plucked from the statistical ether and decided upon. Why 75-years-old? I couldn't say. But whatever the reason, it's rubbish. I mean, really, dying at 74 is premature, but 75 is perfectly acceptable? If one dies the day or two before you turn 75, is that counted as premature?

This is the trouble with the idea of premature death and putting an actual figure on it. This basically means that once you turn 75 there is no longer any point in keeping you alive any longer, certainly from a statistical Public Health or government point of view. Someday, in some truly dystopian version of Britain, I imagine it may actually come down to the increasingly cash-strapped NHS refusing certain treatments to anybody over the age of 75. All because you lucky, lucky souls made it past the government-sanctioned age of what constitutes a premature death. I really cannot see this as a good thing for society to pin down "premature death" so precisely. Eh, but who cares what I think? Right?

So, 75 it is, then. This was the average life expectancy for all Britons in 1987. And by 2011, your life expectancy had increased by 5.75 years to 80.75 years-old. Why hold back now? Let's raise the bar for premature death to 80-years-old. That will really help the tobacco control industry's figures of people dying "prematurely from smoking," if you know what I mean. Won't it?

Let's have a look at some life expectancy comparisons throughout the rest of world:

Click to enlargify
Source (please do click this link and select other criteria!): Google
Are you thinking what I'm thinking? At what age is a "premature death" (as defined by this Health Inequalities movement) in the Democratic Republic of Congo if one's life expectancy is only on average 48.37 years?

Actually, what I'm thinking is this: "Why aren't more people in the Public Health racket (along with the compassionate and caring people in tobacco control industry) rushing over to Congo to do something truly worthwhile and try to improve living conditions and healthcare there. Why is Public Health nitpicking on us about what we eat, drink and smoke when they could -- if they truly cared about people's health and saving lives -- go en masse to Congo and attempt make a real, positive difference."

Because they don't want to, is the answer. They're happy right where they are at, ignoring the real horrors people face somewhere else in the world, whilst eating organic rice cakes in their air-conditioned offices, and typing away on their Apple iPads and smartphones, gleefully lording over others and inventing new ways to torture all of us here in England with their petty and hateful demands that we conform to their lifestyle choices, all the while hysterically shrieking "SOMETHING MUST BE DONE! FOR THE CHILDREN!"

What we know for certain is that that the "prohibitionists" of Public Health are only interested in ... control. It's not about health. Anybody's health. Anywhere. Our health, certainly compared to some countries in Africa, is just fine.

I mean, a bit of perspective if you please. In England, a premature death is anything before 75-years-old, whereas in Congo a person's life expectancy isn't even at 50-years-old. Note: the world's average life expectancy is 69.91-years-old as of 2011, two decades more than Congo. The Health Inequalities stick we're going to be beat with doesn't seem to matter all that much in Congo ... does it?

Perhaps the next time the likes of NHS General Practitioner Dr Sarah Jarvis moans about the hoards of people prematurely killing themselves with tobacco and alcohol in England, or complaining about whatever preventable disease she's faced with every day in her office in Shepherd's Bush, London -- in between writing articles and appearing on various news broadcasts saying "I don't care..." -- we can kindly suggest to her to spend at least a year in the Democratic Republic of Congo and get back to us on that whole preventable death thing she's always on about. I'll even stump for the airfare and a month's supply of organic rice cakes, jar or two of Marmite for her, and a dozen boxes of Twinnings Lady Grey tea. One thing is for certain, people in Congo don't care about counterfeit tobacco either. At least Dr Sarah Jarvis will be in good company.

Dr Sarah Jarvis
She "don't care..."
Somewhere in Congo, that counterfeit mud is a huge problem