Friday, 13 May 2016

The children`s workforce is encouraged to collect the data

Sir Harry Burns, professor of global public health at the University of Strathclyde, has an incredibly myopic view of the social origins of health and wellbeing.

Speaking at the launch of the Early Years Collaborative on 1 October 2012, he began by talking about detecting and treating diabetes in order to prevent deaths and equated that with the need to share information about families in difficulty in order to prevent future problems.
"The situation is very similar for children. In Scotland today we have hundreds of children living miserable lives, poor quality lives, unsupported, living in families of great difficulty and those children are destined for failure. They are destined to be unhealthy. They are destined to do badly at school. They are destined to have difficult lives that may end up with criminal convictions, and so on. The evidence around that link between experience of early years and poor outcomes in later life is just as robust as the evidence that links diabetes with poor outcomes if it`s left untreated."
Actually, statistically speaking, it looks more like he is making the link between diabetes and what happens to children coming out of the care system, but that is not something he wants to draw to anybody`s attention. He is on another mission.
"The challenge you are about to take on," he says to his audience, "is to look at that evidence and commit yourselves to collecting the data that allows you to detect the problem and agree on the evidence based interventions to manage it. That`s really really important."
He is urging the children`s workforce to collect the data that allows them to detect the problem. The problem is going to happen some time in the future, of course, and the future could lead to any number of problems, or none at all. So that is quite a challenge. If the audience is feeling nervous - and they seem to need encouragement from Sir Harry - there is no surprise there.

Then having detected the problem, by identifying families in difficulty, I suppose -  although by doing that they have not actually identified the `problem` at all because that lies in an uncertain future -  the children`s workforce must agree on the evidence based interventions to manage it.

To which we must ask the question: how can you have an evidence based intervention when the outcome, and therefore the evidence, lies in the future which is yet to be determined? Well, you can`t.

Elsewhere, Harry Burns has drawn comparisons between Liverpool, Manchester and Glasgow. The disadvantaged in these cities have the same socio-economic backgrounds; the same rates of cancer and cardiovascular disease, for example, but in parts of Glasgow outcomes are much worse, according to Sir Harry. When he examined the data he found that the poorer outcomes in Glasgow were due to additional factors like suicides, violence, alcoholism and drug addiction.
Now that is pretty bad. Sir Harry recounts that when an Australian visitor heard about that his immediate response was to say: "That`s what happened to the Australian aborigines."

It gave me quite a jolt to hear it expressed that way. It`s as if some Scots are living on reservations in their own country without any hope at all; and just like the Australian aborigines, with these early interventions being put in place, they will lose their children in greater numbers. The myopic view is going to pile injustice on top of injustice.

Sir Harry goes on to say that in the past few weeks, it has suddenly dawned on some southern European countries that they are storing up trouble for the future, given the economic climate they are facing. So they are very interested in what Scotland is doing to support children in the early years.

Now as far as I`m concerned, Sir Harry has just blown it, because there is an admission there that the economic climate bears down on families and children.

This is a good place to have a look at the discussion between Yanis Varoufakis and Noam Chomsky who have a lot to say about the hypocrisy, financial fraud and willingness to crash whole countries that goes on amongst the elite in Europe and elsewhere.

By getting a wider perspective, it will be clear that anybody who says that a country can pull itself up by the bootstraps by focusing on what goes on in the uterus and the first few years of life, is talking absolute rubbish.
There`s a very good reason why Sir Harry got a knighthood. It`s these same elite groups who want the data.

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