Posts Tagged ‘public health’

When it comes to minorities, woo, don’t appease

13/08/2014, 04:31:32 PM

by Kevin Meagher

How far should a political party go in trying to win over ethnic minority voters? Baroness Warsi is clear that the Conservatives can’t win next year’s general election without more of them, while senior Labour figures like Sadiq Khan and David Lammy have raised the prospect of all-minority shortlists for parliamentary selections.

If nothing else, demography suggests it is smart politics for all parties to win a commanding share of what is now a growing market. The 2011 Census shows that around eight million people – 14 per cent of the population – are now non-White, (with half of that total – 7.5 per cent – being Asian/ Asian British). Academics at Leeds University reckon this figure will rise to 20 per cent of the UK population by 2051 while the Policy Exchange think tank reckons the figure will be nearer to a third.

But politicians need to be clear that they don’t succumb to a conceptual fallacy. When they talk of “making politics look more like the electorate” they are speaking in code for promoting candidates because of their skin colour. This is hopelessly naïve and horribly tokenistic.

Minority ethnic communities are not simply ‘Black’ or ‘Asian’. Indeed, the impact of large-scale European immigration over the past decade makes that a nonsense. As does the growth in people from mixed-race backgrounds, who are now said to make up the second largest minority ethnic group.

Instead of descending into gesture politics with the promotion of ethnic-only shortlists, or treating minorities like electoral blocs, parties should focus on providing a fair and transparent policy offer to woo them instead.

Despite the diversity, there are often common issues of concern. Take public health. We know that South Asians have a higher propensity towards Type Two diabetes and that Afro-Carribbean people are three to five times more likely than any other group to be diagnosed and admitted to hospital for schizophrenia. Meanwhile the Irish, a predominantly White ethnic group (and, arguably, the UK’s largest), suffer from a higher preponderance to genetic conditions like coeliac disease and haemochromatosis.


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Labour should back moves to a minimum price for alcohol

20/01/2011, 07:00:41 AM

by Sally Bercow

This week, the government unveiled plans to introduce a minimum price for alcohol for the first time. Admittedly, the minimum price they’ve set (duty plus VAT) is way too low to have any real impact – either on the price of drinks or on alcohol abuse – but it’s a start.

The new rules do at least establish the principle of minimum alcohol pricing and, with a bit of luck, the government might be persuaded to get tougher over time and steadily up the minimum price per unit until it reaches 50p (it works out at 21p per unit of beer, 28p per unit of spirits at the moment) – which is the level recommended by a vast array of health professionals. Don’t hold your breath though: the Tories aren’t exactly known for standing up to big business – and big businesses the supermarkets and the UK drinks industry sure are.

Politicians know that something has to be done, though. Easy access to cheap booze is killing us as never before. The number of people reporting consumption of harmful levels of alcohol is increasing; around a third of men and a fifth of women report drinking more than the weekly recommendations. Society bears the burden of alcohol misuse – the antisocial behaviour, drunk drivers and domestic violence that ensue. Alcohol accounted for five per cent of all deaths in 2005 and its impact costs the NHS around £3 billion a year. Drink wreaks misery and havoc on families and communities. There can be no doubt that action is long overdue. (more…)

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Replacing nanny with a nudge is no joke

13/12/2010, 07:00:54 AM

by Michael Dugher

Andrew Lansley, the health secretary, recently announced the government’s plans to improve public health in the white paper, Healthy Lives, Healthy People.  So what exactly is the plan?  Well… it’s to “nudge” people more.  They want to nudge people to make the right decisions when it comes to their health, rather than the so-called “nanny state” approach taken by Labour, where the “man in Whitehall” was telling people how to live their lives.  The idea is that people can be enticed, instead of being coerced, into making better decisions.  It is, of course, total nonsense.

“Nudging” is one of the government’s new buzzwords. It was made popular by Professor Richard Thaler, an adviser to David Cameron in the cabinet office’s behavioural insight team or “nudge unit”.  And, no, I am not making this up.  This is the infamous, supposedly civil service, team that includes former Conservative party staffer, Anna-Maren Ashford, Cameron’s personal image consultant and head of “Brand Dave” before the election.

Labour made huge improvements in public health, but the new government’s white paper comes against a backdrop of the NHS, and indeed other healthcare systems around the world, struggling to cope with the demands of a population that is eating too much, drinking too much, smoking and not doing enough exercise.  I speak from some experience, though I gave up smoking several years ago in a moment of good sense. It is curious to remember that the founding fathers of the NHS actually believed that demands on the institution would gradually decline over the years, as people were treated and made healthier and would therefore not need to use the health service as much. Instead, of course, demand rocketed as people began to live longer, as technologies and treatments improved exponentially, and as we grapple with the health problems associated with twenty first century living. (more…)

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