Thursday, 31 May 2018

Food Control

I've written for Spectator Health about the latest set of demands from the movement that should call itself Food Control...

The committee says that it was ‘impressed by the progress that has been made in Amsterdam using a whole systems approach.’ Amsterdam is the new poster boy for ‘public health’ campaigners because its child obesity rate fell between 2012 and 2015, possibly as a result of a concerted anti-obesity campaign. The campaign didn’t involve any of the tax-and-ban policies being proposed today – it focused on education and physical activity – but Wollaston’s committee turned a blind eye to this as it fumbled towards its preordained conclusion.

‘We want to see a whole systems approach’, says Wollaston in her press release today. The Local Government Association, which wants to ‘make obesity everybody’s business’, also puts the whole systems approach at the heart of its anti-obesity plans. But what is it? Since nobody has managed to define the whole systems approach without resorting to meaningless jargon, allow me to offer my own definition:
Whole Systems Approach (n): taking a bunch of policies that do not work and piling them on top of another bunch of policies that do not work in the hope that some weird alchemy turns them into more than the sum of their useless parts.

I also argue that 'public health', as currently practised, has nothing in common with science or medicine.

One of the conceits of the modern ‘public health’ movement is that it is a branch of medicine. The practitioners of ‘preventive medicine’ may have swapped the scalpel for the placard, so the story goes, but their methods are comparable. They publish in peer-reviewed journals. They have PhDs. They are ‘evidence-based’. The only difference is that while a doctor might save thousands of lives in a career, a good ‘public health’ lobbyist could save millions.

Such is the conceit, but there are two major differences between medicine and ‘public health’. The first is consent. A doctor generally requires the consent of the patient. ‘Public health’ campaigners do not seek consent from the public and often act against their express wishes.

The second is efficacy. A new drug or medical procedure requires overwhelming evidence that it works before it can be rolled out to the general population. It also requires strong evidence that it will not cause serious negative side effects. Things are rather different in ‘public health’ where policy is essentially whimsical.

Do read the whole thing.

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