Tag Archives: health

Economic benefits of longevity

The Wall St Jour­nal car­ries an arti­cle by Sonia Arri­son on the poten­tial for, and ben­e­fits of, greater longevi­ty. Her con­clu­sions are sim­i­lar to those I pro­posed in a recent arti­cle in Pol­i­cy on The New Future of Old Age: The world’s advanced soci­eties are final­ly in a posi­tion to launch a true offen­sive against […]

The future of longevity

While there is so lit­tle activ­i­ty on trade agree­ments or nego­ti­a­tions and only promis­es of inno­va­tion in trade pol­i­cy, I’ve been pay­ing clos­er atten­tion to oth­er things. Demog­ra­phy, of course, and in this case epi­demi­ol­o­gy. It took twen­ty thou­sand cen­turies for life-expectan­­cy to dou­ble. But it grew by as much again in just one cen­tu­ry […]

Evidence on State hospital administration

Adam Cress­well in The Aus. offers us the data instead of spin. The impres­sion of ‘excel­lence’ in Vic­to­ria fades in the light of the evi­dence.

…[H]ealth experts say offi­cial com­par­isons show no evi­dence that Victoria’s sys­tem is any bet­ter: whether cheap­er or, the more impor­tant ques­tion, whether patients emerge health­i­er on the oth­er side” Extract from Diag­no­sis: state of medi­oc­rity | The Aus­tralian

Anoth­er major pub­lic pol­i­cy decision—the fight over State and Fed­er­al con­trol of health funding—being spun, in pub­lic and in the Par­lia­ment at least, by hunch­es and impres­sions.

Caloric restriction diet doesn’t work

Reports this week that a “nutri­tious but reduced-calo­rie diet blunts aging and sig­nif­i­cant­ly delays the onset of such age-relat­ed dis­or­ders as can­cer…” are a per­verse account of a study that showed no sta­tis­ti­cal­ly sig­nif­i­cant effect of calo­rie restric­tion.

Sandy Szwarc shows that the sup­posed ben­e­fits appear only if the results are cooked by ‘cher­ry pick­ing’ the trial’s mor­tal­i­ty records. She also sum­ma­rizes the weight of evi­dence that calo­rie restric­tion ‘life exten­sion’ is vodoo (or pos­si­bly a com­mer­cial ven­ture in this case)

Does the data show ‘epidemic’ obesity risks?

The Aus­tralian Bureau of Sta­tis­tics (ABS) has just pub­lished the sum­ma­ry results of the Nation­al Health Sur­vey for 2007-08. The inter­est­ing thing about this year’s data is that it includes actu­al mea­sure­ment data (as well as self-reports by sur­vey respon­dents) of ‘body-mass indices’ (BMI).

Super­fi­cial­ly the BMI data in the new ABS sur­vey seems to show that the loud alarms about an ‘epi­dem­ic of obe­si­ty’ in Aus­tralia might be jus­ti­fied.

“Results from the sur­vey clas­si­fied 25% of adults as obese, 37% over­weight, 37% nor­mal weight and 2% as under­weight. The high­est rates of overweight/obese were in the 65–74 year old aged [sic] group… [T]he pro­por­tion of males clas­si­fied as over­weight or obese based on actu­al mea­sure­ments rose from 64% in 1995 to 68% in 2007-08; for females the increase over this time was 49% to 55%.“Extract from the Sum­ma­ry, Nation­al Health Sur­vey 2007-08

But what does this data real­ly tell us? What does it mean to say that only 37% per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion is ‘nor­mal’ weight and 62 per­cent is ‘over­weight’? Does that high­ly skewed dis­tri­b­u­tion strike you as pecu­liar? Per­haps call­ing the indices into ques­tion?

What do we know about the actu­al risk posed by this ‘epidemic’—assuming you can have an epi­dem­ic of risk fac­tors—that should cause us alarm?

How creepy can big Pharma be?

Firms in the indus­try that leads a glob­al clam­or about the theft of patents have much slip­perier stan­dards when it comes to pass­ing off on their own account.

Tes­ti­mo­ny in a cur­rent Aus­tralian civ­il suit against Mer­ck, the cre­ator of Vioxx (below), shows that Mer­ck spon­sored a fake med­ical jour­nal. The pho­ny ‘Aus­tralasian Jour­nal of Bone and Joint Med­i­cine’ col­lect­ed reprints of favor­able men­tions of their prod­ucts, appar­ent­ly to mar­ket to Gen­er­al Prac­ti­tion­ers who have lit­tle time to look into the sci­ence more deeply.

The facts on flu

Most pan­demics just aren’t what they’re cracked up to be.

Sandy Szwarc has pub­lished a fas­ci­nat­ing dis­sec­tion of the pan­ic over Mex­i­can ‘swine’ flu. She points out that if you check nation­al health data, you’ll find that influen­za kills about the same num­ber of peo­ple in pan­dem­ic and in non-pan­dem­ic years.

In fact, most of us have lived through a flu pan­dem­ic and nev­er even real­ized it. The Hong Kong flu pan­dem­ic in 1968–69, for exam­ple, killed an esti­mat­ed 33,800 Amer­i­cans. That sounds like a lot, but it’s about the same num­ber of Amer­i­cans who die from the flu in a typ­i­cal year.” Extract from Junk­food Sci­ence