There is, believe it or not, a group of doctors madder than the shrinks, and seedier than the pecker checkers; a bunch of clowns, jokers and no-hopers so weird that no one knows what they do or why they are there. Mostly, they don’t know either. Until, that is, one or more of them develops ideas above their station, and puts their arse over the parapet and launches an air biscuit. I refer, of course to that posse of disconnected and discontented doctors who call themselves public health physicians.
Public health physicians – otherwise known as code doctors on account of their initials, and because they make about as much sense – don’t actually have patients. Instead, they have populations. A lot of code doctoring is about pretending populations are patients, but it doesn’t work because, as most other doctors have spotted, populations aren’t patients.
Code doctors are usually behind outbreaks of coercive healthism – those proclamations that declare that we should not smoke, drink, fornicate, eat chocolate, or do anything else interesting, lest we die long and painful deaths. Sometimes the science behind the coercion has substance, but often it does not – or is, at best, unsettled.
Take climate change. While the rest of the world has been watching the “science” behind global warming go up in smoke as the details of Climategate emerge, a group of code doctors have been “Calling all health professionals” insisting “what’s good for the climate is good for health” and that we “can, should and must take meaningful action on climate change”.
Now, linking policy to a burning bonfire doesn’t do much for credibility. Nor does purple prose:
“Today, the greatest threat to humanity has emerged. This is our time and this is our watch. We must, without fail, take up our responsibility and unite against the global and national public health threat of climate change. It is our duty to make clear our stance on climate change, and make clear our demands of government and global institutions in order that we fulfil our vocation and protect public health.”
The greatest threat to humanity has emerged? – it’s going up in smoke as we speak. But that doesn’t stop the Climate and Health Council, the board of which contains many code doctors, from urging us to, amongst other things:
Inform ourselves about the basic science of climate change, the health benefits of taking action, and the urgency of doing so. (Not that they’ve bothered to do so…)
Advise our patients. Better diet and more walking and cycling will improve their health and reduce their carbon emissions. (And increase their methane emissions.)
Influence food menus wherever we go – ask for local food, less meat, and less processed food; a low carbon diet is a healthy diet. Drink tap water. (Why not go the whole way – a zero carbon diet – and die?)
Be a champion: put climate change on the agenda of all meetings – clinical teams, committees, professional networks. Doctors can tip opinion with chairs and chief executives. (Tip opinion with chairs? – I told you code doctors were weird…)
Gear up your own influence and that of all health professionals by joining the Climate and Health Council or the Health and Sustainability Network, or both. (Or neither…)
Now all these “practical actions”, as they are pleased to call them, might be so much trouser gas. Where they really do start farting higher than their arses is when they attempt to provide estimates of potential tonnes of carbon equivalents saved per year.
Now, where’s my farting bracket?