It's only fair to share…

Like most blogs this one is written a day or two before it is posted. Generally, one does not expect massive change in the interim. But apparently a killer flu could sweep through the world tomorrow. This prediction has come from the usual public health suspects and this flu could kill 33 million people in the first 200 days and ultimately kill 300 million!

A Dr Jonathan Quick of The Global Health Council told the Daily Mail that we could face starvation, lack of medical supplies, low energy systems and the collapse of the global economy. This is the sort of stuff one sees in disaster movies.

Is it any wonder that public trust in health authorities is declining? Every year we get predictions of “killer flu”. And each year there are deaths associated with influenza of which 98% are from secondary pneumonia in those aged over 85. The number of cases and the severity varies year to year and this last winter has been a bad one in the northern hemisphere. The effectiveness of the vaccine in the northern winter was estimated at 15%.

The swine flu of 2009 was predicted to kill tens of millions. Fatalities were lower than usual. The epidemic of 1918 is still trotted out to defend the claims of doom. But the world was a radically different place 100 years ago at the end of WW I. In the western world the levels of sanitation, living conditions and overall standards of health are not comparable. Every epidemic since 1918 has seen fewer deaths in both absolute numbers and as a percentage of the population.

Still doom and gloom is the public health stock in trade. There will be predictions of killer flu in the southern hemisphere this winter. The season may be more or less severe than average but 33 million deaths in six months starting tomorrow – of course not.

In another example of how government is more of a problem than solution in health, is the story of a trampoline being removed from a housing estate in Melbourne. Governments spend money telling us to be active. There are separate campaigns reminding us that children need to be active. Public health wrings its hands about childhood obesity.

So, what did the housing department do when it found out that children had been using a trampoline (a present from grandparents) rather than being on the play station? They removed it.

According to WA Today; “ The boys’ mother, Sara Gebrehiwot, said having the trampoline at the estate was a good thing because it kept her children occupied and helped them make friends. It’s important because they’re not isolated, they’re staying active. They’re not stuck in a house watching TV or playing with tablets”.

The department raised the usual legal concerns. Here is an idea for some bright sparks in government. How about personal responsibility. Change the laws so that if people voluntarily use a trampoline and sustain an injury then it is their responsibility.

The local MP Adam Bandt was quoted “No landlord should be able to take away children’s toys, especially when the landlord is the government.” He has a point!

The worst aspect of this story is that statistics tell us that those who are less well-off can be at greater risk of obesity and the complications that flow. They may be less likely to exercise. Moves like this from government make it even harder.

Still maybe they are assuming that the killer flu will strike and exercise won’t be needed.

In case tomorrow is the day, it has been good knowing you all. Back in the real world, I will see you next week.