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Yes Minister meets Alice in Wonderland, Myles Peterson

This piece did ring a few bells with me. I would however like to raise a couple of points:

Our section was under-budget by hundreds of thousands of dollars, necessitating we blow all the unspent money before the end of the financial year. Unfortunately, ”training” did not mean I would finally get some training. ”Training” consisted of hastily booked, dubiously relevant conferences and courses, most of which were conveniently located a long way from Canberra.

Nice work if you can get it – my department is cracking down on employee travel even though we have the same amount of spare budget. We won’t waste your valuable taxpayer dollars on sending lowly public drones to the only place they can get specialised training! (I’m not bitter.)

We were not the only ones wasting money. Associated with our section were those boffins who create public health campaigns, the ones that appear on television with increasing regularity: nights out turning into nightmares, measure your fat stomach, wash your hands – that kind of thing.

I was surprised to discover the minds behind these campaigns were not health professionals. They had backgrounds and degrees in marketing, communications and advertising, not medicine.

This is actually pretty reasonable! When was the last time you changed your behaviour because of a fact? OK, a heart attack is technically a fact, but a health professional isn’t ethically allowed to actually induce a heart attack or emphysema, so they tend to say uncompelling things like “the prevalence ratio of Type II Diabetes in overweight and moderately obese women is 3x that of normal-weight women” (closer investigation revealing that the prevalence is less than 8%, so 92% of overweight and moderately obese women don’t actually have this problem).

Hence it falls to the marketing bods to come up with ever gorier images of your heart or lungs turning black under the influence of your lazy, filthy day-to-day abuse, in the vain hope that you will actually wake up and realise that incremental changes to your lifestyle really do help. I lost over 50lb, not after being informed that obesity will shave 3.6 years off my already-likely-to-be-90+ life,  but because I was the oldest, fattest slob in a graduate intake of spunky young things whose mere existence made me grind my teeth with jealousy. Could those boffins who create public health campaigns could convey that in a 15-second spot?

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