Something terrible happened.
When I studied health in the post-revolutionary but pre-reunification early 1980s I looked up to the authors of the classic texts in health critique. Vicente Navarro. Howard Waitzkin. Ivan Illich. David Mechanic. Perhaps even Ilona Kickbusch. But certainly the Boston Women's Health Book Collective.
It seemed that in the nearly three decades since those inspiring days things started to balance out. Health, not disease, became the centre of the discourse. What was advocated as a fringe perspective (the 'social model of health' and even more radically, 'salutogenesis') became part of the global mainstream. We moved on.
Last week our reference librarian sent me an announcement that they were presented (freebie!) with an e-book. 'Health' was its title. Nice, I thought. Our librarian added:
The line attributed by Mark Twain to British PM Benjamin Disraeli that there are ‘lies, damned lies and statistics’ might be held to be true when assessing the value of indicators. Indicators, after all, only indicate, so there is scope for debate about the meaning of the UNDP’s Human Development Index, identified by Robert Johnson in Crikey.com yesterday and by me last Friday.
But as well as damned lies and statistics there are also category errors – analysing metaphorical tangerines when one is supposed to be looking at oranges. They are similar, but not quite the same and confusing one for the other can lead to inaccuracies.
For every Australian tired of bad news – disasters, political disputes and public people behaving badly – here is some good news. While nobody was noticing, late last year Australia pipped Norway to achieve the highest standard of living in the world.
On New Years day, as the Victorian and Northern Territory governments followed NSW, WA and the ACT by implementing laws preventing cigarettes from being put on display to the public, the Australian Medical Association called for a $25 million TV and newspaper advertising campaign showing “damaged vital organs or people drinking liquefied body fat” to shock Australians into giving up junk food and sugary soft drinks. The good doctors based their call upon a belief that the fear-based advertising campaigns used by the TAC (in Victoria) and Quit have been effective in changing behaviour around driving and smoking.
An advertisement created by The Precinct studio highlights the debate about whether shock ads actually change behaviour. The viral execution features a mother preparing to inject her son with heroin before the scene changes to show him eating a hamburger.
The caption reads: ''You wouldn't inject your children with junk so why are you feeding it to them?''
World Breastfeeding Week was unfortunately marked this year by a focus on an off-the-cuff remark by Brazilian-American supermodel Gisele Bündchen that there should be a worldwide law forcing mothers to breastfeed their babies for six months.
As ridiculous as the remark may seem, the supermodel’s desire to see other mothers breastfeed for up to six months in fact aligns with the strong scientific evidence of the health and other benefits breastfeeding brings for both mother and baby.
The dickhead and nose candy campaigns are two very different campaigns, with different potential outcomes.
One of the biggest contributors to obesity and environmental degradation in the past 35 years has been the increasing sophistication of all facets of marketing to create an environment where highly processed and energy dense food is easily available to those living in developed countries.
Although it is typically argued that lifestyles have become more sedentary over this time, it is a fact that consumers have been encouraged through highly sophisticated marketing activities, including supply chain management (e.g., easy access to convenience and processed food), pricing (e.g., reduced costs, better "value" and longer perishability of processed foods), as well as integrated advertising campaigns, to purchase and consume foods that provide a high fat, high sugar, and high salt "hit".
It’s hard to see how something like the “free” bike scheme being launched in Melbourne is going to be at all successful.
A report in The Age tells us that “users will pay a membership fee – $2.50 a day or up to $50 a year…” But, and here’s the killer, if a bike isn’t returned within half an hour, then people will be penalised heavily ($20 after two hours, and $370 after 10 hours). Add to this, the requirement for people to bring their own helmets, the danger of riding bikes in a very un-bike-friendly city, and the need to pre-register, as a marketer, I can see that in its current form, in this particular market, it is doomed to fail.
I did live in hope that we wouldn’t go the way of US schools, but I guess it was always going to be a bit difficult to resist. News that “leading educators” (are these official titles?) are willing to back sponsorship of schools by food companies such as McDonalds, and other commercial brands, puts children at more risk than simply being exposed to what Institute of Public Affairs executive director John Roskam says will be “five minutes of advertising a day”.
Of course, numeracy and literacy programs are critical, but at what cost?