Bill Harvey: Zero the hero
Author: Bill Harvey
Some weeks back, I wrote that, though the WHO had clearly made some mistakes during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, it was neither the time for the finger-pointing of blame nor for an attack upon a body, run by health professionals, that focused on the response to the new disease. I repeat this here, but ask you to replace the letters WHO with PHE.
Among the many concerns raised by the announcement of the demise of Public Health England by Matt Hancock, a politician I suspect keen to identify any target upon which to deflect the blame likely to fly his way during future inquiries, is the likely adverse impact upon other recent health campaigns. The recent focus upon obesity is one such example, and one which eye care practitioners should keep a close check upon. When, last year, we asked for readers’ views about their involvement in delivering health messages, perhaps via ‘lifestyle prescriptions’, the response was overwhelmingly in favour. And prevention is always best.
To quote Gabriel Scally, visiting professor of public health at Bristol University and ex-NHS regional director of public health for the south-west, the sudden dropping of PHE ‘is the most incoherent and potentially damaging decision around public health structures in more than 150 years of public health in the UK.’
Finally, if anyone has noticed its absence, let me reassure you our weekly Covid update will return next week. But in line with the dry eye theme of this special issue, it is worth flagging up a timely piece published in the latest South African Medical Journal (https://doi.org/10.7196/SAMJ.2020.v110i7.14906) that reminds us the changes to working patterns and increased time at digital screens needs to be recognised and clear advice given if we are to avoid a ‘second wave’ of digital eye syndrome, a major contributor to the rise in dry eye problems in recent years.