Monday, 29 June 2009

A slow week for blogging

Lots of meetings last week which meant that there wasn’t much time for blogging. Tuesday I was at the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) board meeting. It is an interesting organisation probably invisible to those outside the field of cancer research. You can look on the NCRI website for more information. It is a virtual institute with membership across the spectrum of cancer research from the health departments of the four countries of the UK, the three research councils, 13 charities and industry. One of the objects is to facilitate actions where there is clear value to patients in partners working together to coordinate and also avoid unnecessary duplication.

It is also a great opportunity to get together with colleagues and exchange views and hear about some of the challenges in other cancer areas.

Wednesday was an all day meeting with the Food Standards Agency. I am a lay member on the General Advisory Committee on Science to the agency and the purpose of this day was horizon scanning – future foods for healthier eating. Horizon scanning has such a quaint feel to it – I feel as if I should be on board ship scouring the horizon with my binoculars for sight of land….. This was rather more focussed (pun unintended) as we were looking at things like developments in food production and technology and the consequences of climate change on food production and diet.

There are more “what ifs” here than this small brain can cope with but looking at just one aspect – obesity - what is clear is that unless there are significant changes we are looking at the percentage of obese adults increasing inexorably. The figures given for women were around 24 per cent of adult women being obese (having a BMI over 30) in 2007 to 35 per cent in ten years. (The figures for men are not all that different). There are serious health consequences in diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and cancer. We know that post-menopausal obesity is a risk factor for breast cancer as well.

Ideal diets and changing behaviour were just two aspects of what was discussed: there was such a diverse range of people in the group covering disciplines such as social science, agriculture, fisheries, poultry production, the environment agency – and some of us there to ask why and why not and some of the questions we ask each other in the pub….

Any intentions of working this weekend (in between making birthday cake for grandson and attending birthday barbecue) were knocked sharply on the head. All power was lost to the office building and as I write mid Monday afternoon we have only just had full power supply restored, but bringing up the computer system takes a bit longer. Interesting time in the office – lots of people speaking to each other instead of emailing and a lot of clearing out and tidying up going on…… We have discussed this in our risk assessment discussions and have taken a view that providing an alternative power supply at some expense wasn’t justified by the rarity of the occurrence. As this is the first time in about 12 years I think it is the right decision. But it is a bit scary how dependent we all are on our computers. I suspect there may be a return to printing stuff out – just in case.

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