Water, wine and iron ladies

Our society lurches from one pseudo-scientific craze to another (currently “gluten-free”) quite happily, and manufacturers get rich. Think of psychotherapy, low-salt, low-cholesterol, recovered-memories, trans-fats, low-fat, children-of-alcoholics, exercise-machines, bottled water, aerobics, etc – endless lucrative fads!  I met a guy who made a good living for years selling “gym” memberships.


This is all fine, BUT the myths never get laid to rest! Our popular “knowledge” is infested with things that everyone knows ... which are simply false. Take, for example, aerobics. One 6-year-old boy's schoolbook is pre-printed with nuggets like “To make you fit, exercise should make your heart go faster”. But this is nonsense! Walking is way better for your health than running or jogging (if you have enough time for it).



There are a few brave scientists who try to oppose the myths. We might call them “whistle-blowers”? One of them has finally debunked the “drink 8 cups of water a day” nonsense (see


http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-24464774 . And others have published studies showing that low-salt diets are not healthy. But it's a dangerous pasttime – you instantly become a crank.



The late, unlamented, Margaret Thatcher did leave the world one amazing legacy, which never gets mentioned. She accidentally solved Western medicine's biggest problem, single-handed!! Worth a vote of thanks?



The problem is this. Doctors have always prescribed all possible aids to sick patients, ever since Hippocrates. But we've invented more and more treatments, mostly very expensive. So the cost of treating common illnesses has soared, more every year. (Almost half of all our money is spent on the last year of patients' lives, staving off the inevitable for a few more months.)



Doctors are fine with this – lots of interesting work. But the tax bill is getting unbearable. 30 years ago health care cost around 5-7% of a country's budget. Now it's approaching 15%, and still rising. People don't want to spend that much! But how to stop? No politician could ever be brave enough to propose refusing operations to (say) bed-ridden grannies aged 90 – there would be an outcry. So we've cut back on hospitals, drug companies, social services ... but still the costs continue to rise, because we're giving TOO MUCH medical care.



Enter Margaret, fearless, intelligent, and blissfully ignorant. She tried to turn Britain's tightly-run national health service (the NHS) into a commercial operation, and failed dismally – the health service disintegrated. But God can work good out of anything! Over successive reorganizations, the NHS revived around regional health centres, each making its own rules. And voila! - the problem is solved.



See, a local authority in Oxford, or Barrie, can limit expensive health care (“no heart transplants for alcoholics who are still drinking”, or “no hip operations for patients over 300 lbs”), without exciting media attention. Then other regions follow suit, one by one. And health care costs can at last be reduced!



The fossil-fuel crisis has produced a nice slogan: “Wine is Now Cheaper than Gasoline: DRINK DON'T DRIVE!” And the internet is spawning some curious site-names: how about “www.f-k.com”?