Category Archives: Health and well-being

The Sugar Tax Debate: Should the Government Consider a U-turn?

Nasrul Ismail
Nasrul Ismail

The public health field is never short of controversies. On 22nd October 2015, Public Health England (PHE) published a report on Sugar Reduction: The Evidence for Action. The report recommends inter alia, an introduction of a sugar tax of between 10% and 20% on high sugar products such as soft drinks (PHE, 2015b). This has sparked endless debates within the academic and public domains. The vociferous debate sustains when subsequently, the government guarantees that there will be no tax imposition on sugary products, whilst insisting that there are other workable alternatives for tackling health issues, particularly obesity, as a result of overconsumption of products with a large amount of sugar.

Borrowing from the Nudging Theory, tax is seen as a ‘shove’, capable of prevailing the ‘upstream approach’ in public health (policy approach that can affect large populations, such as economic disincentives) through the preventative route (Local Government Association, 2013). This blog post seeks to explore whether the government should reconsider its initial decision not to impose a taxation on sugary products. It will take stock of the evidence that links sugar with obesity, and consider the success of a sugar tax in various countries in addressing the population’s health. It then goes on to explore the power of taxation in changing people’s behaviour and the potential benefit of such a measure on the NHS, before considering whether the tax on sugary products can address the failure of the Public Health Responsibility Deal between the government and the food industry. Continue reading The Sugar Tax Debate: Should the Government Consider a U-turn?

Talking public health

Katherine Smith
Katherine Smith

Policy & Politics talking public health in Milan last month with Editorial Advisory Board member Katherine Smith

In a session jointly sponsored by Policy & Politics and the University of Glasgow Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, leading international experts explored how public health professionals perceive the role of the alcohol, tobacco and food industries in shaping public policy. . The international panel of speakers, appearing at the 8th European Public Health Conference which took place in Milan on 14-17 October was chaired by Professor Oliver Razum, Dean of the School of Public Health at Bielefeld University, Germany. It included Professor Nicholas Freudenberg of City University New York, Dr Lori Dorfman from the Berkeley Media Studies Group and the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health, Dr Benjamin Hawkins from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Dr Heide Weishaar from the MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow and Policy & Politics’ Editorial Advisory Board member Dr Kat Smith from the Global Public Health Unit, University of Edinburgh.   The session was organised by Heide and Kat along with Dr Shona Hilton of the MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow. This blog sums up the issues discussed and sets out an agenda for future research in this area.

Tobacco, alcohol and processed food industries – Why are they viewed so differently?
Tobacco, alcohol and processed food industries – Why are they viewed so differently?

One of the few indisputable truths in life is that we will all, eventually, die but what we will die of, and at what age, is changing across the world, with non-communicable diseases (NCDs) increasingly accounting for excessive morbidity and mortality burdens. The growing prevalence of NCDs is triggering substantial policy concern, evident, for example, in the 2011 UN high level meeting on NCDs. Yet, it is clear there are very different ways of thinking about this ‘epidemiological transition’: it has been framed, on the one hand, as a consequence of the choices that individuals make and, on the other, as a consequence of the strategies Continue reading Talking public health

Community Resilience and Crisis Management: Policy Lessons from the Ground

Nicole George
Nicole George

Nicole George and Alastair Stark (University of Queensland) discuss their  recent contribution to the journal, Community Resilience and Crisis Management: policy lessons from the ground

The last months of 2010 and the first months of 2011 are remembered in Queensland as the ’summer of sorrow’. During this period, an unprecedented flood emergency inundated 78% of the north-eastern state’s territory. More than 60 lives were lost. 6 billion dollars of damage was done to public infrastructure while private insurance payouts to home-owners and businesses totalled more than 2 billion dollars.

Brisbane, Queensland’s capital city, did not escape this natural disaster. By the second week of January, residents and business owners in low-lying suburbs were caught off-guard as a flood moved rapidly down the Brisbane River.  They hastily evacuated what possessions they could, then watched with a sense of disbelief as muddy waters rose through their streets and two days later receded. When they could return to their water and mud sodden homes, and began to pick through the chaos of destroyed belongings, the true extent of the emergency became real for many.

In the days that followed, flood waters were replaced by floods of citizen-volunteers who gathered spontaneously in affected Continue reading Community Resilience and Crisis Management: Policy Lessons from the Ground

Setting the stage for another reform? Changing narratives around disability benefit recipients in the UK

Zach Morris
Zach Morris

by Zach Morris, School of Social Welfare, University of Berkeley, USA

The Department of Work and Pensions recently released the statistics for those who died after being found “fit for work,” and thus ineligible for disability benefits in the U.K. The Guardian reports that nearly 90 people a month are dying after being found fit for work. Caution is due, however, before interpreting the outcome of the assessment process as the cause of these deaths. Yet, the emergence of these figures and their wide reporting in the press shed light on how the public is coming to perceive the country’s recent experiment with disability benefit cuts. The growing attention to this issue could lead to increasing support for disability benefit recipients, which, as reported in my P&P article on the topic and shown below, has been in decline for many years. If so, now may prove an opportune time for political entrepreneurs Continue reading Setting the stage for another reform? Changing narratives around disability benefit recipients in the UK

Analysing devolved health policy in ‘interesting times’

Ellen Stewart
Ellen Stewart

Ellen Stewart (University of Edinburgh, UK) discusses her article “A mutual NHS? The emergence of distinctive public involvement policy in a devolved Scotland

In the last twelve months’ heated debates about the SNP’s evolving role in UK politics, there has been far too little focus on their record North of the border, where they have now been in Government for almost two full terms (first as a minority government from 2007-2011, and then, beating the odds of the electoral system, with an unexpected majority since 2011). The UK media has only occasionally engaged with this record in government, and these efforts have often been haphazard potted histories, shifting between judging Scotland’s policies or its outcomes, and between comparing them to the other countries of the UK, or to the pre-recession past.

The difficulty of discussing devolved policy in a measured fashion is not new, although it is certainly heightened in the current political climate. In 2011, when I sat down to write what was eventually published in Policy & Politics as ‘A mutual NHS: the emergence of distinctive public involvement policy in a devolved Scotland’, I was trying to pin down some substance behind the pervasive rhetoric of ‘mutuality’ in the Scottish NHS. Much academic analysis of the ‘distinctiveness’ of Scottish health policy has relied on data from interviews with politicians, civil servants Continue reading Analysing devolved health policy in ‘interesting times’

Huntington’s Disease: normalizing the extraordinary

Mara Tognetti
Mara Tognetti

by Mara Tognetti, Professor of Health Policy at Milan-Bicocca University, Italy

The research project “The community takes care of Huntington’s Disease” – piloted by the Observatory and Methods for Health at the Department of Sociology and Social Research of Milan-Bicocca University and directed by the present author – has conducted free interviews to learn about how health workers and relatives find the task of assisting people with Huntington’s Disease (HD). This is an incurable neuro-degenerative genetic complaint which sets in during the prime of the individual’s life cycle and puts paid to the social and physical existence of patient and family. It places social relations under enormous strain and completely disrupts family, working and social life.

For this reason, and because no kind of therapy yet exists to retard or halt progression, the challenge is both to search for an effective cure and to find ways, from the outset, of supporting those who shoulder the burden: the patient, the family and the health workers.

The research aimed to provide a picture of family needs and difficulties in looking after an HD sufferer. We particularly looked at how caregivers perceive their own requirement for time off for themselves, on the Continue reading Huntington’s Disease: normalizing the extraordinary

In Defence of Welfare – why the welfare state is good for us

Elke Heins
Elke Heins

Elke Heins is a Lecturer in Social Policy, University of Edinburgh.

After the success of In Defence of Welfare: The Impacts of the Spending Review published in 2011, the UK Social Policy Association (SPA) has produced a follow-up volume in the run-up to the General Election 2015 to make the case for why we need the welfare state. Around 50 UK social policy experts give their verdict on key developments in British social policy over the past five austerity-dominated years. In one of these short contributions to In Defence of Welfare 2 I argue together with Chris Deeming that welfare and well-being are inextricably linked.

Well-being is a concept that has gained significant momentum since the global economic crisis both internationally and within the UK as the measurement efforts by diverse actors, ranging from the OECD and EU to various government and non-government bodies, to replace the one-dimensional GDP with multi-dimensional well-being indicators demonstrate. Measuring individual and societal Continue reading In Defence of Welfare – why the welfare state is good for us