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Saturday, 24 November 2012

Starting upstream

It was the upstream/downstream story, sometimes known as the public health parable, that sold public health to me.  I was familiar, as we all are, with the old adage ‘prevention is better than cure’ but this story really brought  home to me what this meant.There are many versions of the story but it goes something like this:

“Imagine a large river with a high waterfall. At the bottom of the waterfall hundreds of people are working frantically trying to save those who have fallen into the river and have fallen down the waterfall, many of them drowning. As the people along the shore are trying to rescue as many as possible one person looks up and sees people keep falling into the water and tumbling down the waterfall and begins to run to where they are falling in. One of other rescuers shouts, "Where are you going? There are so many people that need help here." To which the man replied, "I'm going upstream to find out why so many people are falling into the river.”

It just makes perfect sense and so began my passion for public health. Why spend the largest proportion of health service money on building and staffing vast hospitals in order to treat sick people when preventing ill health is so much cheaper for the state and better for the individual? 

But, advances in medical science are so much sexier than persuading people to stop smoking, drink less, eat sensibly and have sex safely. And, as my grandfather (himself a doctor) used to say: "Commonsense is not common".

So this blog will aim to share with you some of my passion for public health. It will explore some of the stories in the headlines and aim to provide context and background. It will link to those who know better and more but will generally be a place for enthusiasts to comment and share. Please do join in.

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