Wednesday, June 26, 2013

PMI and younger people

Demographics. It's a difficult word - not in terms of its definition but in terms of what it means to study demographics.

For instance, if you  were to consult focus groups, take surveys, do consumer research and so on, then make an advert targeted at someone who seems to be the 'average' UK resident, then it would appeal to few - since nobody really actually is the average - or, indeed, has 2.4 children.

But there is a broader use of demographics that can really show starkly how society is changing. Take for instance the numbers of young people in tertiary education and compare it to 50 years ago. Have we got smarter as a society? Some would say definitely not. But then, if you look at the prevalence of computer use and the far higher amount of data we all come into contact with on a daily basis, there's no doubt that the human brain has changed over the last century. Just look at the Flynn Effect - whatever's happening, in terms of IQ test results we're becoming less dumb all the time!

All of which leads me to an interesting story in HI magazine recently which highlights the fact that there could be a big demographic challenge within the PMI industry. According to the professor of health policy at a top London university, wile the NHS will survive, 'the welfare state in its current form' is likely to change and with it provide opportunities for PMI. One of the objectives PMI as a whole should aim for, said the professor, is to increase the number of customers under age 40.

Of course, this is partly a question of economics, and with youth unemployment still far too high (although falling) there are fewer people in work and therefore fewer who can make the choice of purchasing PMI. But come boom time, it could provide a demographic health transformation.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Mental health update

There have been various articles in the health pages over the past few days which go over some of the more salient points raised by the recently released Office for National Statistics report "Measuring National Wellbeing".

A couple of the most interesting statistics were those regarding mental health, with 'some indication of mild to moderate mental ill health' affecting

  • 23% of those who were out of work
  • 15% of those in employment
This is interesting for a number of reasons, not least of which is the fact that the number for those in work who are suffering from mental health issues is around the same as the figure that's already quoted by the mental health charity Mind to highlight the prevalence of stress, anxiety and depression within the workplace.

It's been well reported that stress levels have risen since the start of the economic downturn, and last year stress admissions at hospitals were reportedly up sharply year on year. Workplace stress is something that we can all help manage on individual terms as well as along organisational lines.

The ONS' figures may seem high, but one of the biggest advances in mental health has been the destigmatisation of mental health problems, meaning people are more likely to seek a diagnosis than they would have if the more supportive context wasn't there. On top of this, it's likely that diagnoses are more accurate than they would have been in previous generations. Many workplaces also provide counselling services operated by 3rd party services to help staff with issues they may be facing.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Musculoskeletal system

The musculoskeletal system is a thing of wonder - the accumulation of billions of years of evolution. Amazingly, despite our massively complex structural nature, we still share 30% of our DNA with the humble lettuce Or so I read, anyway!  Musculoskeletal disorders also account for a large number of sickness absence, so it's worth knowing a little about it. This clip goes over some of the basics and for some more info check out the NHS Musculoskeletal Zone.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Smoking and health

We all know smoking's bad for the health, right? The statistics are just too clear on this for anyone to seriously take any other position than to accept that - whether or not you smoke - it would be far, far better for the health to be a non-smoker.

The thing about smoking, though, is that for those who're addicted, giving up can be a tricky business - and there's now a whole industry built up around smoking cessation - from nicotine replacement therapies (NRT) such as

  • Patches
  • Inhalers
  • Gum
  • Nasal spray
  • Inhalers
  • Lozenges/ tablets
These products can help people find a kind of 'bridge/ between smoking and being smoke free - by taking the edge off the nicotine cravings while also getting people out of the habit of performing the actions of smoking. This last one is particularly important since it means that those giving up smoking are able to form new patterns of behaviour and weaken the smoking triggers they used to have, such as after a meal.

Giving up smoking, as the smoking cessation literature often says, is a bit of an event - one that smokers are encouraged to set a date for, and thereafter not smoke. And while we'd all like to see a world where there's nothing other than the very real fact that it's unhealthy being enough in itself to get people to give up, there are many who don't.

And then there's the in-between - the people who may not feel able to give up immediately and outright. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) have issued new guidelines. These guidelines are a bit of a departure from what we've seen before - and highlight how smokers can lessen the harm done for people who

"may not be able (or do not want) to stop smoking in one step
may want to stop smoking, without necessarily giving up nicotine
may not be ready to stop smoking, but want to reduce the amount they smoke"

Essentially the guideline looks at safe uses of NRT alongside reduced smoking to lessen health risks. See the link to NICE above for more info