Mixed messages, confusion and chips

Fatties are more likely to get dementia. Almost everyday we hear that health outcomes are dependent on any number of actions we as individuals take. Be that eating too much, drinking too much or eating and drinking the wrong thing. Today, it’s over eating that is more likely to fry our brains. Tomorrow it may be that eating fried food improves our memory! In many cases we are damned if we do and damned if we don’t. The causation or risk of disease due to activities we undertake is often reported as the result of new research, with no supporting comment to guide us as to how we should respond to it. These stories are often reported in isolation and appear unconnected with other research and on occasion offer us contradictory evidence, thereby allowing us to ignore it, or more likely, leaving us bewildered.

Without context and putting each story within a wider picture, advice can be confusing to many and the actions we need to take overwhelming. So with a mass of advice on what to do and not to do for us to stay healthy the general public may feel that anything they do is harmful and be tempted to throw in the towel.  Those who may benefit most may not even bother reading the story.

Perhaps the new Public Health England (PHE) can play a part and develop a new role by monitoring and reviewing the research and resulting news stories and using them to replay its central messages and support the themes it wants to get across. Without the wrap around of context and support and advice from the centre much of the research and the contribution it could make may fall on ears deafened by the noise of mixed messages. Like Channel 4 News, PHE could develop a ‘Fact Check’ public resource.  With the proposed deeper integration with the Local Authority, public health now has a chance to play a more prominent role in our lives.  It could start by helping us sift through the welter of advice and research, giving  us a few simple messages that are consistent, loud and clear.

About Julia Manning

Julia is a social pioneer, writer and campaigner. She studied visual science at City University and became a member of the College of Optometrists in 1991, later specialising in visual impairment and diabetes. During her career in optometry, she lectured at City University, was a visiting clinician at the Royal Free Hospital and worked with Primary Care Trusts. She ran a domiciliary practice across south London and was a Director of the UK Institute of Optometry. Julia formed 20/20Health in 2006. Becoming an expert in digital health solutions, she led on the NHS–USA Veterans’ Health Digital Health Exchange Programme and was co-founder of the Health Tech and You Awards with Axa PPP and the Design Museum. Her research interests are now in harnessing digital to improve personal health, and she is a PhD candidate in Human Computer Interaction (HCI) at UCL. She is also dedicated to creating a sustainable Whole School Wellbeing Community model for schools that builds relationships, discovers assets and develops life skills. She is a member of the Royal Society of Medicine’s Digital Health Council. Julia has shared 2020health's research widely in the media (BBC News, ITV, Channel 5 News, BBC 1′s The Big Questions & Victoria Derbyshire, BBC Radio 4 Today, PM and Woman's Hour, LBC) and has taken part in debates and contributed to BBC’s Newsnight, Panorama, You and Yours and ITV’s The Week.
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