Clarity and vision lost en route
THE year is 2020. And delegates to last weekend’s futuristic summit would be delighted to know that you arrive at work on bike. There, you grab a packaged porridge — colour-coded green’’ for nutrition — from the cafeteria. It’s a far cry from the fat-soaked sausage and hash browns you’d kill for, but 50 per cent cheaper since the junk-food tax kicked in.
You’ve had a slack, indulgent weekend, so you assess the damage on your online healthbook account, adding in readings from the bike heart-rate monitor and the prebreakfast blood sugar count.
The heart rate’s passable. The blood sugar level’s not — too high for someone with genetic markers for diabetes and who lives in a high-risk’’ postcode for chronic disease.
An alert flashes on your healthbook account. It’s your genetic counsellor, who’s noticed the elevated sugar levels and suggested more exercise, plus another consultation — government subsidised, of course.
So you take to the stairs, getting the half hour of exercise for every eight hours of work mandated by your employer. That too will feed into your healthbook account, which you’ve agreed to feed into your firm’s calculation of its own wellness footprint’’.
Welcome to the 2020 summit’s vision of Australia’s health future — so high-tech it’s comes complete with plans to develop a bionic eye. But, stripped to its core, the biggest idea from the health talkfest is an old one — prevention is better than cure. The consensus on the need to promote wellness’’, rather than treat illness’’, reflects the exponential growth in so-called lifestyle diseases. It also fits with the Rudd Government’s policy for a national preventative health taskforce.
The fact that we have such a small investment in preventative health care is just being blind to the future,’’ the Prime Minister told the health delegates last weekend. To see the galloping acceleration of cardiovascular, diabetes and a whole range of other disease categories, chronic disease categories, it’s just frightening.’’
The summiteers’ focus on prevention gave rise to some of the headline ideas of the national thought-fest — a tax on junk food, alcohol and cigarettes, classification of foods by nutritional value, mandatory exercise at work, and first-aid training in schools.
But it served to distract from trickier