Tuesday, July 24, 2018

The End of Anorther Academic and A Good Talk.

As another successful academic year ends I want to focus on a really good talk that I recently attended. This was by Dr Chris Witty, Chief Scientific Advisor to the Government, in late June 2018 at Leeds University on 'The Health Needs of the UK in 20 Years.' It was given as the Annual Charles Thackray Lecture and Chris started with a quote from Thackray: "Thoughtlessness or apathy is the only obstacle to success." Some very interesting points were made in the talk such as when the UK had shortages in health workers in the past we could "buy in" these from overseas but Chris felt that the economies of other countries would probably catch us up and in the future we may not be able to do this. He also pointed out that fertility rates in Western Europe were dropping whilst the older populations there were rising and I wondered despite immigration proving to be a sensitive political issue if Europe in the future may find that it needs these young migrants to care for its older citizens and to make their societies work? Chris pointed out that great strides had been made in the last years in addressing child mortality and occupational mortality and he also felt much progress had been made concerning cancer "but we still haven't had the great breakthrough" although Chris suggested that we were going in the right direction. Chris wondered if the next 20 years may see a shift from poor health because of socio-economic conditions to poor health because of age? He was also optimistic about air pollution and felt it was primarily "an engineering problem" and I hoped we would put the planet first for all of our survivals. Chris argued further that obesity would prove a serious challenge in the future (I have always felt we needed to regulate the food industry), and that the antimicrobial issue was vital. He also pointed out that as life expectancy increased so would disability and we would move to "multi-morbidity" which may mean we need to move out of specialisation as the proportion of ill-health throughout life goes up. Chris argued that the price of drugs would fall in the long-term whilst mental health and rural health may become bigger issues in the future. He finally felt that funding formulas would need modernising to meet need. A lot of stimulating food for thought and things for all of us to address although I personally felt we needed to consider the role of economics and politics overall more in the picture and we would need critical thinking by diverse citizens and the political will to address all of these health challenges. The next Community Blog should be in September 2018 when the new first years arrive and the later year students return. So have a good summer break everyone! With best wishes, Barry

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