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.