Writers - Paul Matthews, Nick Laird, Allie Cherry, James Whyte, Alan Surgeon, Linda Thompson, Ann Mariott, Paul Robertson. Edit and Design - Brian Houston
“Don't drink, don't smoke, what do you do?” sang the (then) fresh-faced popster Adam Ant many moons ago. More than ever it seems that if “the powers that be” had their way, enjoying cigarettes and knocking back alcoholic beverages wouldn't be the only activities removed from our collective agendas. No one would ever fail to do their weekly quota of physical activity, forget to eat their five portions of fresh fruit and veg a day (do you know anyone who manages to wolf down that much vegetation every single day?) or go anywhere near illegal substances.
The media, the government and health professionals do appear to be just about tripping over themselves in an effort to urge people to give up habits they find pleasurable and replace them with low-fun alternatives. Newspapers and magazines are full to bursting with what we should and shouldn't eat, the latest exercise fad and Hollywood's newest starvation regime. On telly, most commercial breaks contain some not-so-gentle advice about how to banish health vices from our lives. For instance, not that long ago Scottish Executive adverts encouraged us to ditch the dodgy foodstuffs, eat more healthily and then reap the benefits. Although it's a sensible message, it misses the point that firstly, not everyone has the access to, or cash to buy good food and secondly, there are some times when only Cadbury's best or delicacies from your local chippie will do.
A physical activity ad had people striding about their respective neighbourhoods in an effort to get us up off our backsides and engaging in the types of sporting activities that many of us so gratefully put behind us when we left school. Although the horrific consequences that drug taking can have on people's lives shouldn't be downplayed, when it comes to drug education the majority of adverts have a watered down “just say no” kind of message. This conveniently avoids the fact that, shock horror, some people regularly take drugs, their usage is not problematic and they have a good time whilst they are on them.
Above and beyond all this, health advice in adverts comes in such bite-sized chunks that it can't help but overlook the fact that giving up smoking, sticking to a diet and so on, can be bloody hard work!
With regards to the medical profession, it was recently reported that the British Medical Association wants a tax on biscuits, cakes and ready meals, in fact all fat-filled nasties. This is because obesity currently costs the NHS about £500 million a year. In addition to this, the Labour Party are considering introducing health “contracts” in order to put overweight people and smokers under pressure to lead healthier lifestyles. It's all a bit on the sinister side, really.
Some commentators characterize health professionals as little more than health Nazis whose pants become moist at the thought of interfering in individuals' lives. Earlier this year, Forest, the smokers’ rights group set up the Free Society, a campaigning group which argues that the UK government has no right to try and bully people into eating the foods they think they should be eating.
The health Nazi tag does seem unnecessarily harsh. After all, although we're more than capable of making decisions about what we eat, drink and smoke, when and in what quantities, and we have no desire to end up like the USA (ie in egg white omlette and “skinny” latte hell), when push comes to shove, no one's forcing us to do anything. The health police don't follow us around Tesco’s, issuing on-the-spot fines and flinging beer, pizza and pastries from our trolleys. Drinking, smoking and eating nothing but lard are still matters of personal choice.
Giving out health information is (or should be) about presenting people with all the available information so they can make informed decisions about how to live their lives. A good example of this is raising awareness about sexually transmitted infections. Many of these infections may not necessarily have any symptoms, so the likes of big campaigns are an essential way of prompting people to get themselves checked out (how else are you going to find out about this stuff?). Also, a lot of it is about how that information is given. No one, however much they do or don't know about health issues, wants to be panicked, or patronised (and it is sincerely hoped that this fine publication has never done such a thing). They just want information in a clear, no-nonsense way. Maybe the old saying ‘everything in moderation’ is the most sensible way forward.
is a partnership project representing the LGBT community in Scotland. Views expressed are not necessarily those of the partners. However, if they're witty, intelligent and insightful - they probably are. If you flicked through this mag, saw a photie and made an assumption about someone's sexuality - then you're about ten years behind what we're trying to do here. Click the mag off and walk away. Accurate at going online time, but hey, we didn't get this sarky without making mistakes.