Slowly and inexorably the Nanny State rumbles on.
For some time now I have noticed an increasing mention of obesity in the meeja, whether it’s “game show” style programmes where people compete to lose weight, or documentaries showing the morbidly obese struggling to survive. All this is designed to plant into the public subconscious the concept of a country drowning under a sea of obesity.
Now the big guns are being rolled out. The “studies” are starting to appear.
A new one today estimates that “obesity costs Ireland more than €1 billion per year”. How do they work that out? Do they follow some unfortunate with a calculator, ringing up the medical costs and sick days? No. That is obviously impossible, so they fall back on their old friend – the epidemiological survey.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term, and epidemiological survey generally falls into one of two types.
The first is where questionnaires are filled out for a block of the population. The questions by their very nature cannot be precise. “How many meals do you have a day?” seems fine, but how do you define a meal? To one it may mean a tomato and a slice of lettuce while to another it could be a 2lb steak with a large portion of beans and chips, complete with onion gravy and all the other trimmings. “How many sick days have you taken in the last year?” seems straightforward enough until you realise that half those sick days were down do skiving or a hangover and had feck all to do with weight. These surveys are notoriously inaccurate as they depend on people being scrupulously honest [as people usually tend to give the answer that is expected of them], have 20-20 hindsight and on the right questions being asked in the first place.
The second type, beloved of the Tobacco Control Industry is simply going over previous “studies” and combining the figures. This is the worst type as it is virtually impossible not to pick and chose the “studies” that provide the figures that suit your hypothesis.
From these studies they then produce mathematical models that predict what their findings will have on a full population. In the case of Tobacco Control, it is these models that tell us that 200,000 or whatever number, die every year from second hand smoking whereas in real life there isn’t a single case anywhere where this has been proven.
One of the interesting points about this new “study” is the lack of definition of “obese”. I would have thought that it should be the very first line of the report, but if it is in there, I have missed it. Is it anyone with a BMI of 25 or over? 20 or over? Is it based on levels of fat? Waist size? It is crucial to the whole exercise yet they fail to even define the word obesity.
Where next? Well, that’s obvious. The map has already been drawn so they will follow the same route. A ban on advertising. Plain packaging. Restrictions on sales, and of course the Big One – taxation. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if the budget introduces a “sugar tax” or a “fat tax”. After all, we have to “lead the world” and “send out the right message”? One way or another we are going to be bullied and forced into eating “healthy foods”
All you people who laughed at the smokers’ discomfort and who condoned the “denormalisation” of a significant sector of society had better watch out. You are about to suffer the same fate.
If you want the real reason behind this study though don’t be fooled into thinking it has anything to do with health. It has even less to do with the cost to health services. You have to look down to the recommendations of the report…..
Paragraph H – “The findings on the cost of overweight and obesity highlight the need for significant investment in research”.
Paragraph J – “There is a need for ongoing national health and lifestyle surveys at regular intervals”
These researchers certainly know how to look after themselves?
All aboard the gravy train……….