Public Health England has been abolished, but Public Health Wales is still going strong. These kinds of centralised bodies charged with dealing with all society’s health-related ills love to neglect the undoubtedly vital parts of their job (like preparing for future pandemics – or indeed, responding to ongoing ones) and instead allow mission creep to run wild, from obesity to smoking and alcohol to gambling.
Public Health Wales is no different, but its latest report takes this worldview to a whole new level. It boldly declares that people in Wales face an unprecedented “triple challenge”. The report examined the combined impact of Brexit, Covid and climate change, and found that all three affected diet, nutrition, active travel and alcohol consumption.
So climate change makes you idle, Covid makes you drunk and Brexit makes you fat. Who knew?
If it ended there – with a laughable report release which then disappears into the ether – we could write off the likes of Public Health Wales as harmless clowns. But the problem is, it never ends there. This kind of rhetoric-over-policy approach to public health is well-received in government, both in Wales and in Westminster. There is no ceiling on the growth of the nanny state.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Public Health Wales report proudly cites similar reports from the World Health Organisation. Supposedly, the WHO predicted that lockdowns would lead to people drinking more, which – it goes without saying, according to the received wisdom in public health doctrine – means that rampant state intervention in people’s lives is long overdue.
What we are seeing from both local agencies like Public Health Wales and the World Health Organisation on the global level is mission creep on a colossal scale. Both should be focussing their attention on communicable diseases – pandemics in the western world, and preventable deaths in the developing world.
Instead, they are so caught up in their self-congratulatory lifestyle policing that they can’t help but spend all day, every day talking about issues of lifestyle choice. Beyond providing information and education, there is nothing the state should be doing about, for example, people eating unhealthy foods out of choice.
If anything, it should be improving access to a wider range of products, especially for the poorest in the population – not cutting them off from even the smallest indulgence by taxing sugar and salt, as the nanny statists want, both local and international.
Instead of focussing on communicable diseases, the World Health Organisation spends vast time and resources effectively campaigning on issues of lifestyle and freedom of choice (and undermining the sovereignty of national governments in the process). From tobacco taxes to alcohol laws, from sugar and salt taxes to vaping restrictions, there are very few areas where the WHO doesn’t believe in aggressive new state intervention in our everyday lives.
Public Health England also made a raft of costly mistakes in responding to the pandemic. In fact, it was abolished because of its failures on Covid, from banning adverts for masks last year to failing to share vital infection data with local authorities.
Those who govern public health are consistently failing where we need them most (on pandemics and communicable diseases) because they are instead spending their time pondering how to make poor people smoke less. If it believed the science, the WHO would be throwing its weight behind tobacco harm reduction measures like educating smokers about the benefits of vaping. Instead, it seeks to crack down on vaping, exposing its motives – control and the exponential growth of the nanny state, rather than public health outcomes.
If this new report from Public Health Wales is anything to go by, the future is bleak for civil liberties and lifestyle freedoms across the western world, as the influence of the WHO continues to grow unchecked. When the next pandemic rolls around, we will once again be woefully unprepared because we were too busy worrying about whether Brexit is making us fatter.