Tag Archives: public health

Mobile phones: do parents need to turn them off as much as their children?

Today whilst sitting in a local café I saw something vaguely disturbing – which I seem to see almost every day now. This may be rather an unusual subject for a blog, but I just had to sit down and write this piece. A parent had obviously just picked up his daughter from school – she was maybe five or six year’s old – and taken her out for a well-meaning treat. But after five minutes or so, I noticed her just staring out of the window. The father was on his mobile phone for almost the entire length of the time that I was there – at least twenty minutes, if not longer.

The child would intermittently try to get her father’s attention, saying look at this or that, but he would glance across at her with a quick smile and then carry on scrolling – and scrolling, not taking any meaningful interest in what she was saying. They were in my line of sight so I could not escape the whole thing. The little girl was trying so hard to engage with her father, but his attention was elsewhere. In the end I think she just gave up. Maybe he had something very important to sort out, it is not for me to judge, but I have seen this pattern of behaviour repeated many times – especially on train journeys. It is strange how we so often criticise children and adolescents for spending too much time on their phones, when their parents can be at least as culpable. Sometimes there are also safety implications; I have seen the parents of small children using their phones whilst crossing the road, with their young charges walking ahead unsupervised.

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The sugar tax is as liberal as they come

Andy Briggs recently wrote on this blog that “any Liberal government worth its salt would repeal the sugar tax”. Certainly, the justifications that the government has given are to do with deterrence, and I agree that those are illiberal – but there is a much more compelling reason to support the principle of this policy, and one which goes right to the core of liberalism.

It is undeniable that a diet of sugary foods leads to obesity, and undeniable that obesity is one of the great killers in this country. But not only that, it’s costly – according

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Nick Clegg opposes banning smoking in cars with children present

Speaking on Call Clegg this morning, Nick Clegg said that he personally wan’t in favour of changing the law to ban smoking in cars where children are present. The question came about as a consequence of a vote in the Lords last night. MPs will now be given a free vote on whether to incorporate it into the Children and Families Bill.

Nick made it clear that he would be voting against:

Of course it’s a stupid thing to do to smoke when a child is in the back of a car but you don’t always have to have a law

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Opinion: Devil in disguise, new drug, same old lies

There’s another new drug in town, and the System is being cranked up to counter its insidious spread. This drug is increasingly popular among the young, who consider it exotic and often try it when abroad. It’s called “The Devil in Disguise” in government propaganda, because of its supposedly devastating health effects – just one session of this drug is equivalent to smoking 100-200 cigarettes, so say the “experts”, and it can even harm nearby children.

What is it? Well, it’s the shisha water pipe (“hookah”), with tobacco. There is growing anti-shisha propaganda around, which I don’t have a problem with …

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Norman Lamb: Support for Volunteer Groups across our Health and Care System

Charities and not-for-profit organisations offer an extraordinary range of care services across the UK. They offer millions of people access to high-quality treatment, advice and support. Brilliant innovation in care often happens in this sector. It is critical that the NHS works hand in hand with third sector organisations to make full use of the important work that they carry out in enabling people to live healthier, more independent lives.

Last week I announced the latest round of funding for the Innovation, Excellence and Strategic Development (IESD) Fund, which is designed to support voluntary groups in promoting health and wellbeing in local communities.

The …

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The Independent View: rheumatoid arthritis and public awareness

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic autoimmune disease that occurs when the immune system attacks the body instead of defending it, causing inflammation that often results in serious damage to bones, joints and tendons, and can also affect internal organs like the heart, eyes and lungs. Currently the disease affects an estimated 690,000 people across the UK.

To coincide with the launch of the first national Rheumatoid Arthritis Awareness Week, NRAS has today published a major new report on public awareness of the disease called ‘Breaking Down Barriers’, which includes a ComRes survey of over 2000 members of the British …

Posted in The Independent View | 4 Comments

Opinion: Are current state pension arrangements fair?

Two stories jumped out at me this week as being deeply connected. Stephen Tall praised Ed Balls for not ignoring the huge chunk of welfare spending that goes to pensioners. Then, a new website from Public Health England reminded us of the country’s large health inequalities. These inequalities should give us extra cause to question the fairness of current spending on pensioners.

As Stephen wrote “Spending on the state pension will increase by nearly 20% in real terms between 2010–11 and 2017–18.” The challenge of an ageing population was present even before the financial crisis. It’s now …

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Opinion: Government must act to encourage healthier diets

Yesterday, Chris Rennard and John Sharkey raised the important and inter-connected issues of sugar consumption and childhood obesity, respectively, during Oral Questions in the Lords.

These related topics prompted fifteen minutes of debate from a packed Chamber, as the responding Minister – Earl Howe – spelt out what the Government is doing to encourage healthier eating and prevent the problems associated with poor diet and lack of exercise, from worsening.

John Sharkey began proceedings by pointing out that not one of the companies signed up to the responsibility deal for calorie reduction is a fast-food operator. He …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 21 Comments

Trans-fats, your health and politics

Do you eat cakes, chocolate bars, ready meals or chips from a take-away? Who doesn’t eat some occasionally? All those foods I mentioned and many others may contain high levels of compounds called trans-fats or trans-fatty acids.

The reason that trans-fats are important is because they cause much higher levels of heart disease – and yet we rarely hear about them. Trans-fats are an unnatural product of food processing. Vegetable oils are sometimes chemically treated by “hydrogenation” to give them a thicker consistency or they are purified at a high temperature. Food manufacturers do this to increase storage life …

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Opinion: Health & Social Care Bill – a local government perspective

Media coverage and comment so far since the Bill was published last week has been largely about GP commissioning, and the abolition of Primary Care Trusts and Strategic Health Authorities. Naturally there will be risks associated with such an enormous transfer of financial responsibility, but we should most certainly not overlook the underlying localist and patient-centred philosophy, and the opportunities for GPs to become more engaged with a wider health and wellbeing approach in every locality.

GP practices operate in local communities, and councillors are elected to represent those same communities. How should we work with them more …

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