Yesterday there was some debate in the House of Reps on the Government’s plans to establish the Australian National Preventive Health Agency, and we will be hearing more anon. You can download the Bill here.
The advent of the Agency presents another predictable opportunity for a predictably boring debate about the “nanny state”, as per this segment from Richard Aedy and the Life Matters Team yesterday, featuring public health advocate Professor Mike Daube and individual choice advocate Julie Novak, from the Institute of Public Affairs. Incidentally, Mike Daube also spoke at a nanny state debate earlier in the year that I wrote about for Crikey.
It’s well and truely time that we put these nanny state debates to rest. They are SO last century and so unenlightening, especially when there is much else we could be talking about, including how many aspects of the modern environment encourage and support unhealthy behaviours.
The problem with the nanny state debate is that it keeps the discussion firmly focused on health as a function of individual behaviour, when it is much more useful and helpful to take an environmental health perspective.
Smoking rates fell because of changes – such as workplace smoking bans, advertising bans, increased taxes and prices, and changing social mores – which created an environment that made it easier for individuals to make healthy choices.
The other problem with focusing on Nanny is that it keeps the focus firmly away from where it is needed: looking at the contribution of powerful industries – food, alcohol etc – to poor health.
So next time anyone feels inclined to reach for a Nanny state debate, don’t bother. Nanny is now officially dead and buried. I hope.
Post Script: Now here’s a smart way to examine related issues (and no mention of Nanny either). Courtesy of the SMH’s Ross Gittins.