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Reasons for optimism – health

Summary:
Even if the anticipated advances are made in medicine, some question whether the outlook for people’s health should be on balance optimistic. Despite major medical advances in recent years, analysts point to obesity, smoking, unhealthy diets and lack of exercise as factors that have, for many, contributed to poorer health than progress in medicine might have suggested would come about.These factors are for most people lifestyle choices, and are susceptible to change if people decide to change their behaviour, or if technological developments make that behaviour less harmful to their health. Already there are grounds for optimism on smoking, in that it is the smoke, rather than the nicotine, that causes the associated illnesses. Tobacco smoking is diminishing in developed countries as less

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Even if the anticipated advances are made in medicine, some question whether the outlook for people’s health should be on balance optimistic. Despite major medical advances in recent years, analysts point to obesity, smoking, unhealthy diets and lack of exercise as factors that have, for many, contributed to poorer health than progress in medicine might have suggested would come about.

These factors are for most people lifestyle choices, and are susceptible to change if people decide to change their behaviour, or if technological developments make that behaviour less harmful to their health. Already there are grounds for optimism on smoking, in that it is the smoke, rather than the nicotine, that causes the associated illnesses. Tobacco smoking is diminishing in developed countries as less harmful ways of using nicotine have appeared. Patches and pills have helped people to quit, but vaping has been the most successful. There is every reason to suppose that smoking will virtually disappear, first in the developed world, and then in the less developed parts.

Information campaigns have helped more people appreciate which foods are unhealthy if overindulged in, and this will undoubtedly continue. For people who lack the resolution to eat healthily, it is likely that less harmful versions of the favourite foods will be developed to enable people to enjoy them without picking up the tab of obesity.

Scientists in several pharmaceutical labs are working to develop drugs that can help combat obesity, either by suppressing the appetite cravings, or by helping the body to process high-calorie foods without taking in as many of the calories they contain. Given the demand for such drugs, and the resources available for research into them, there are grounds for optimism about the outcome.

Lack of exercise is more problematic, given the emergence of driverless cars, electric scooters and later on passenger-carrying drones. It will take more conscious effort to fit in more exercise than daily activities will require. But here, too, the combination of information campaigns and new drugs will alleviate the problem. People will probably soon have access to drugs that can enhance the metabolic gains yielded by exercise, making a little of it go a longer way physiologically.

The same combination to reduce the effects of harmful lifestyle choices holds promise for most of them, including excess drinking of alcohol. It is the wider spread of information about their effects and the alternatives that are available, combined with new drug therapies that mitigate their effects.

If we were to rely on such things as sugar taxes, minimum alcohol pricing and advertising bans, there would be little ground for optimism because they have marginal, if any, effect. But the combination of wider information with mitigating products is more successful, and gives grounds for optimism that people might be more healthy in future than they are now.

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