Tag Archives: public health

Spiegelhalter D, Blastland M. The Norm Chronicles: Stories and numbers about Danger

norm norm3d

Meet Norm. He’s 31, 5’9″, just over 13 stone, and works a 39 hour week. He likes a drink, doesn’t do enough exercise and occasionally treats himself to a bar of chocolate (milk). He’s a pretty average kind of guy. In fact, he is the average guy in this clever and unusual take on statistical risk, chance, and how these two factors affect our everyday choices. Watch as Norm (who, like all average specimens, feels himself to be uniquely special), and his friends careful Prudence and reckless Kelvin, turns to statistics to help him in life’s endless series of choices – should I fly or take the train? Have a baby? Another drink? Or another sausage? Do a charity skydive or get a lift on a motorbike?

Because chance and risk aren’t just about numbers – it’s about what we believe, who we trust and how we feel about the world around us. What we do, or don’t do, has as much do with gut instinct as hard facts, with enjoyment as understanding. If you’ve ever wondered what the statistics in tabloid scare stories really mean, how dangerous horse-riding is compared to class-A drugs, or what governs coincidence, you will find it all here.

Publisher: Profile Books
Year: 2013
ISBN-10: 1846686202

Check out the website for a feel for the book…


Allen Woody (dir). Sleeper



Sleeper is a 1973 futuristic comic science fiction film, written by Woody Allen and Marshall Brickman, and directed by Allen. The plot involves the adventures of the owner (played by Woody Allen) of a health food store who is cryogenically frozen in 1973 and defrosted 200 years later in an ineptly-led police state.

Producers: Jack Grossberg
Year: 1973
Director: Woody Allen
Writer: Woody Allen, Marshall Brickman

button_hyms (teaching resource – risk factors for disease)

Brandt, Allan. The Cigarette Century: The Rise, Fall, and Deadly Persistence of the Product That Defined America

cigs cigs3d

From agriculture to big business, from medicine to politics, The Cigarette Century is the definitive account of how smoking came to be so deeply implicated in our culture, science, policy, and law. No product has been so heavily promoted or has become so deeply entrenched in American consciousness. The Cigarette Century shows in striking detail how one ephemeral (and largely useless) product came to play such a dominant role in so many aspects of our lives—and deaths.

There is a good website about the book with more background and resources >here<

Publisher: Basic Books
Year: 2009
ISBN-10: 0465070485

Brown, Ford Madox. Work

This a picture which bares and rewards repeated views. Painted over a 13 years period (1852-1865), at one level it is a reflection of Victorian views on the moral value of work. The justification for me in recommending it for this website would be the nature of the work underway here, the ‘noble’ labourers in the centre of the work are digging up a Hampstead pavement for the installation of new sewers. An image of the Public Health revolution underway.

If you want a different sort of entry point to the picture… The infant who regards you very directly (as babies do), and wears a black ribbon probably to symbolise the death of its mother, is modelled on the painter’s son, Arthur, who died during the creation of the work. At this time period the infant mortality rate in England (which is the proportion of babies born alive who die within the first year) was around 150 per 1,000 – its is now 4.5 per 1,000. In 2010 it is still possible to find a number of populations in the world where more than one in a hundred new births will not survive the year:  Angola, Afganistan, Niger, Mali, Somalia, Central African Republic. As the baby’s black ribbon highlights birth was risky for mothers too, at the time of the painting nearly 5 per thousand births would lead to the death of the mother, in the UK now it is around 0.08 per thousand – maternal mortality however remains a global problem with around 350,000 deaths occuring per year in 2008 (approximately the combined population of Hull and Scuthorpe if that helps visualise the figure)

The picture can be seen at Manchester Art Gallery as part of their excellent collection of pre-raphaelite paintings.

Ibsen, H. An Enemy of the People

Power. Money. Morality. In a tight knit community a shocking discovery comes to light and threatens the lifeblood of the town. Truth and honour are pitched against wild ambition and corruption in Ibsens emotional maelstrom.

Publisher: Faber and Faber
Year: 2008
ISBN: 0571242596

 (spoiler alert)

Viewer Comments:


Catriona Kemp HYMS: Whistle blowing, medical ethics and public health.
The central character, a doctor, is a popular and well regarded figure in his community who investigates and discovers that the new baths to be opened in the town – bringing much needed tourism and money – are actually a health risk being corrupted by the local tannery.
Film versions of it have included Steve McQueen’s penultimate appearance. (Worth seeing just for the size of the beards.) Clips from this (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mSqHEYrRrm8) along with other versions available on YouTube.

Classic quotes include:

  • the strongest man is the man who stands alone
  • The majority never has right on its side. Never, I say! That is one of these social lies against which an independent, intelligent man must wage war. Who is it that constitute the majority of the population in a country? Is it the clever folk, or the stupid? I don’t imagine you will dispute the fact that at present the stupid people are in an absolutely overwhelming majority all the world over. But, good Lord!—you can never pretend that it is right that the stupid folk should govern the clever ones I (Uproar and cries.) Oh, yes—you can shout me down, I know! But you cannot answer me. The  majority has might on its side—unfortunately; but right it has not. I am in the right—I and a few other scattered individuals. The minority is always in the right.”
  • What sort of truths are they that the majority usually supports? They are truths that are of such advanced age that they are beginning to break up. And if a truth is as old as that, it is also in a fair way to become a lie, gentlemen. (Laughter and mocking cries.) Yes, believe me or not, as you like; but truths are by no means as long-lived at Methuselah—as some folk imagine. A normally constituted truth lives, let us say, as a rule seventeen or eighteen, or at most twenty years—seldom longer. But truths as aged as that are always worn frightfully thin, and nevertheless it is only then that the majority recognises them and recommends them to the community as wholesome moral nourishment. There is no great nutritive value in that sort of fare, I can assure you; and, as a doctor, I ought to know. These “majority truths” are like last year’s cured meat—like rancid, tainted ham; and they are the origin of the moral scurvy that is rampant in our communities.

Full text available from project Gutenberg at http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/2446 (source of quotes above).