Yes, the public health people are lying to us again


It would be useful if they could manage to keep their stories straight:

A landmark report by Public Health England (PHE) says lack of exercise is as dangerous as smoking - directly contributing to one in six deaths.

Officials warned that the UK population is now 20 per cent less active than it was in the 1960s, with half of women and one third of men damaging their health through lack of physical activity.

Given that weight is a straight function of calories consumed to calories expended we've the cause of our obesity epidemic right there. Calories consumed have fallen in that timescale but calories expended has fallen faster. We can thus junk 90% of the current public health programs over addictive sugar, trans-fats and all the rest as simply being nonsense. This part of the public health sector has told us what is really happening.

But it is, of course, worse than that. Our public health people do not seem to understand the economics, nor even the accounting, of public health:

Officials say that without major changes in the way people live their lives, the welfare state in Britain could collapse under the burden of self-inflicted diseases, which are fuelled by obesity, alcohol and smoking.

This simply isn't true. As we've pointed out many a time in these pages, fatties, boozers and puffers save the welfare system money.

Yes, there are public costs associated with the treatments for the diseases all three bring on. But in terms of medical care those costs are lower than the public costs of treating someone who does not die early. There are thus savings in public costs if someone pops an artery in their 60s rather than needing, a little later, a decade's worth of Alzheimer's treatment. When we include things like pensions savings the numbers are even starker. From the point of view of the finances of the welfare state we should be encouraging everyone to stuff themselves and to puff away and imbibe as they do so.

On the other hand of course there are substantial private costs to such early deaths: so we don't in fact go around doing that but just, if we've any liberality left at all, tell people so that they are informed of those costs: the benefits they already know of as it is pleasurable to eat, drink and smoke.

This does not mean therefore that there should be no information campaigns, no attempts to inform people that their health should be better if they stagger up off the couch for a walk for 30 minutes a day. That's all just fine. But what it does mean is that none of these campaigns or actions can be justified by reference to the costs to the welfare state or the public purse. It just ain't true that fatty, puffing boozers impose costs upon said welfare state: thus reducing the number of fatty, puffing boozers isn't going to save that welfare state any money.