Profits for Some, Diabetes for Others

Fresh analyses from healthcare charity Diabetes UK show that the number of people living with diabetes in the UK has soared by 60 per cent over the last decade. Tragically, the national news responded with a spate of Diabetes scaremongering.

Yes, diabetes is a problem, but lets get our facts straight about dealing with it: something that medical reporter, Dan Hurley, accomplished in his 2010 book Diabetes Rising: How a Rare Disease Became a Modern Pandemic, and What to Do About It.

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Notably unlike many commentators in the media, Hurley focuses most of his anger on those who continue to blame the rise of diabetes on individual lifestyle choices. He writes:

“[F]or the larger medical community to continue to expect that individual diet and exercise programs will turn around the Type 2 pandemic amounts to willful indifference to the facts.”

So long as the capitalist food industry can reap massive profits from foisting unhealthy food upon consumers, aided and abetted by misleading advertising claims, Hurley argues, the pandemic that is diabetes will never dissipate.

Instead he emphasizes the importance of creating new laws, that will enable meaningful regulation of the food and restaurant industries, to better safeguard public health.

In contrast to such reasonable analyses, much of the reporting on diabetes revolves around the crisis it presents for the NHS.

This problematic framing of this serious healthcare issue isn’t helped by wrong-headed statements from Diabetes UK, which state that a failure to address their charities legitimate concerns about diabetes actually threatens to “bankrupt” and “bring down the NHS.”

To be fair the charity makes this point to highlight the wasteful manner in which diabetes is currently being treated, as 80 pence in every pound spent by the NHS on dealing with diabetes goes towards managing avoidable complications — unnecessary complications that occur because funding for effective preventive measures is not being prioritized.

Nevertheless, it remains largely unsaid that the most effective way of restoring the efficiency of the NHS would be to reverse the processes of privatisation, and to reverse the long-standing funding cuts that have crippled effective healthcare provision.

Hospitals are certainly being bankrupted, but this is not being caused by ill health: instead it is being caused by toxic Private Finance Initiatives that unquestionably place private profit before the needs of public health.

Following on from such profiteering priorities, cost-cutting has led to a tragic situation where we find that people “with diabetes are facing serious illness because the number of blood test strips available on the NHS are being rationed to cut costs.”

So let’s get one thing straight: the rise in diabetes should not to be blamed on individual eating habits.

On the other hand, there are far more powerful actors, with a lot more political influence than individual diabetes sufferers, who should be blamed for both our nation’s ill-health, and the dismantling of the NHS.

But, as ever, these powerful economic and political actors remain safely off-stage, while the media sideshow rages on about our unhealthy eating habits.

This letter was sent to the Leicester Mercury mailbox on 17th September.

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