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Public Health, Private Pain

There is something madly wrong with Public Health.

It’s been apparent for some years but has come to the fore with Covid.

The problems are illustrated in a short blog post on Climate Change written by six Public Health professionals including Profs Michael Baker and Nick Wilson.


It’s characteristic of Public Health that a short post has six authors. I suspect it’s to corral the faculty and add weight.


Public Health presents as monolithic with dissent squashed. Here’s distinguished professor Ian Reid on emeritus professor Des Gorman: “Des has no role in representing our department on the subject of Covid or others”. Professor Reid makes clear that he as department head is the final arbiter of the Department’s view. It’s astonishing that a department has a collective view let alone one that must be represented. That alone shows the deplorable state of the discipline.


Having multiple authors not only corrals the faculty but also gives fake weight to pronouncements. In the absence of facts and reason, Public Health relies upon expert agreement. 'It’s true because we experts agree it’s true.'

Public Health experts have always exhorted us to do one thing or another. But whereas it was once to floss and to breast feed it is now to engage in politics. The authors' purpose is to encourage us to make a submission on the Climate Commission’s report backing the Public Health experts’ pronouncement. “[T]here is still time to influence its final report”. Make a submission. Support what we say. There are six of us. We are experts. We stand for Public Health.


And the point? The Climate Commission hasn’t given sufficient weight to the Health Benefits of going Net Zero.

According to the Six, reducing fossil fuel use and planting trees would make us spend more time in the salad section and less time in meat and dairy. That’s supposedly good for us and good for the planet. Meat and dairy are priced out of the shopping basket: we can eat broccoli and salads instead.


Taxing fossil fuels would also mean less car and truck use and therefore less pollution. We would bike and walk more. We would be fitter and leaner.


Net Zero would thereby make us live longer and healthier. We would eat less meat and dairy, we would bike and walk more, and the air would be fresher. It would be wonderful.


The Six also write that Net Zero would make the country fairer and honour Te Tiriti. The Six don’t explain how Net Zero does this. They just add equity and Te Tiriti to pump the policy. That happens a lot in Public Health.


The Six also say we would be happier at Net Zero. It requires considerable hubris to decide what makes us happier but that’s not a problem for Public Health experts.


In summary, centrally directing the economy, defuelling industry and covering the countryside in trees will make us healthier, happier, longer living, equitable and honour Te Tiriti. There’s no cost or upset, no tradeoff or downside. Net Zero delivers happiness and peace.


Of course, there’s no rigour or intellectual heft with any of this. The Green Party’s manifesto makes more sense.


And if you doubt our Public Health experts, here's their kicker argument:


"The commission should also build on the experience of New Zealand’s successful response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This response has shown the benefits of rapid, science-informed and vigorous all-of-government action — and delivered public health and economic benefits."

For these experts, the last year-and-a-half has delivered health and economic benefits. That's all you need know about how madly wrong they are. And Covid’s just the start. We now have Net Zero to look forward to.

Public Health experts are so out of whack they need a health warning.

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