H1N1: Mountain or Molehill? Health debate 10.09.09

The first surprise in last month’s Thinking Tank was that 80% of you feel that swine flu is “no big deal”. This, despite the fact that 60% had friends and family who had contracted the disease (presumably with no serious consequences).

The discussion took a philosophical turn with much reflection on swine flu:

As a symptom of society

  • Yes, the resilience of the human race is encouraging. We will find new energy solutions, we will cope with changing family structures etc We always have…

As a message to improve the way we run our world

  • that’s a benefit of the whole event, reminds us that we’re all human, all basically in the same boat and should find solutions for all
  • slows down the rat race we are in for a while
  • We can have our mobile phones and home entertainment, but at the end of the day we are still all codependent. So when some thing goes wrong for one group it still affects us

And as a way to identify lifestyle risks

  • When we choose to exploit (pigs, land, food distribution) we don’t get away with it. We may seem to in the short term, but sooner or later it catches up with us. We need to think bigger and wider
  • maybe drives us apart – “I would help you but if I touch you I might get your germs

There was quite some scepticism about the real danger of the disease but an acknowledgement that there were some useful lessons to be learnt

  • pandemics sell papers
  • prepares all systems for a real alert, like a test-case

Some actions

Encourage sustainable farming:

  • give negative tax on organic produce
  • Increase transport costs and incentivise local consumption of local food

Manage the media:

  • Next time: try to control the media hype a bit. Because if people have had this experience twice, they will not believe a warning the third time anymore, and not respond to measurements.

Do we have to suffer to be beautiful? Health debate 07.07.09

The conversation was dominated by concerns about body weight—plastic surgery, tattoos, piercing were barely mentioned. There was a spirited defence of heavier bodies by some  and almost universal disapproval of extreme thinness and its promotion.

The beauty industry has more effect on our body image than partner, family and friends, but 40% still feel their own point of view is the most important (all statements quoted here achieved at least 70% support).

The majority of the group felt it was “crucial to act” to address the issue of media pressure on all of us to look a certain way.

  • I like that eg mascara ads now say “with false eyelashes”. Its reassuring. All beauty ads should have to declare their fakeness.

Advantages of more body image interest

The group acknowledged that interest in how we look is not all bad…

  • it is a luxury and a privilege to be living at a time in civilisation when we can afford this indulgence in how we look – not just fighting to survive
  • focus on health and fitness

Disadvantages of more body image interest

But there were many more strongly supported statements concerning the disadvantages which included increased incidence of eating disorders among children, a tendency to be superficial and an

  • emphasis on appearance rather than being

Action points

There were mixed feelings on public education about healthy eating with some wariness of nanny state tendencies. But certainly interest in a more personal approach

  • Important to be with our kids and help them interpret these messages, reminding them they have a choice (and reminding ourselves too!)

Keeping the conversation going and extending to new audiences was seen as important too:

  • make this technology available for kids to have conversations too
  • ..and people working within the various beauty industries might benefit from the opportunity to participate in this kind of conversation

LINKS

Rosa, advocacy group for women and girls

Womankind Worldwide, development agency

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