Monday, 26 September 2016

Not news

The lead story on the BBC Health website as I write this is headlined '"Lifestyle illnesses'" cost NHS £11bn'.

Health problems related to poor diet, drinking and smoking are costing the NHS in England more than £11bn each year, officials say. 

Public Health England (PHE) says that unless they are tackled more effectively the NHS will become unaffordable.

It warns conditions such as diabetes and smoking-related bronchitis are a new and untreatable epidemic.

The £11 billion figure is cobbled together from the £2.7 billion alcohol is said to cost the NHS, plus £3.5 billion attributed to smoking and £5.1 billion attributed to obesity. All of these are gross costs and do not include savings to the NHS from not having to treat people who died prematurely. Nor do they take into account the cost of substitute diseases in a counterfactual, ie. how much would be spent on a person who died from lifestyle-related Disease X if they had lived to die from non-lifestyle-related Disease Y.

Even as a gross cost, the figure for alcohol is an overestimate. Moreover, tobacco and alcohol duty bring in around £25 billion a year which covers the alleged gross cost of all lifestyle diseases twice over and covers the real net cost many times over. For some strange reason, the BBC neglects to mention this.

But why is any of this news? Public Health England announced the £11 billion in March this year and the BBC covered it at the time. The actual news content of today's story is astonishingly thin. It continues...

But the town of Fleetwood, Lancashire, plans to tackle these problems head on.

OK. So this is a local news story. And how does it plan to tackle them?

Local GP Dr Mark Spencer is leading an effort to change that picture. He has forged a coalition of local people and health workers to break a damaging cycle of sickness.

 Good for him. So what?

The BBC has been offered the chance to follow this ambitious project over the next year, which will attempt to help people change the behaviour that is damaging their health.

It involves a broad range of different approaches, from educating children in primary schools about food and diet, working with local sports clubs to encourage people to get active, and creating more open green spaces in the town.

That doesn't sound particularly ambitious. It sounds like the bog standard stuff that the 'public health' industry uses billions of pounds of our money for every year.

There's no point me quoting any more of this. There is no news to be found. A bloke in Fleetwood wants people to live healthier lifestyles and the BBC is going to keep reporting on this non-story because it has been 'offered the chance' to do so. I suspect the real reason for the prominence of the article - which has been repeatedly tweeted by the Beeb - lies in the headline. They want to the hammer this Trojan number into people's heads.

No comments: