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EVGENY LEBEDEV: Pandemic has revealed just how unhealthy Britons are

Every year, around 55 million people die worldwide. Some deaths are due to newsworthy events and major pandemics. 

But many more, three-fifths of them, are attributed to mundane diseases of chronic inflammation.

Imagine if the news led with the number of people who died from heart disease each day. Imagine if we had a regular Downing Street briefing on the prevalence of respiratory diseases.

The subject of the UK’s poor health, long restricted to Harley Street nutritionists and Instagram influencers, has finally been shoved into the spotlight by Covid-19.

Last Wednesday I made my maiden speech to the House of Lords. In it, I discussed the tragedy of this country’s high death toll from the pandemic.

According to some measures, in January the UK had the highest death rate per capita in the world. 

We need to ask ourselves why this was; our hugely successful vaccine rollout should not let us forget how badly the country fared against the virus.

The subject of the UK’s poor health, long restricted to Harley Street nutritionists and Instagram influencers, has finally been shoved into the spotlight by Covid-19, writes EVGENY LEBEDEV

Most politicians wouldn’t dare say it, but I will: Covid has revealed how unhealthy Britons are.

We are the epicentre of obesity in Europe. We have failed to flatten the curve of diabetes, heart disease and respiratory conditions.

These, along with economic inequality and social factors, have undoubtedly contributed to our tragic death toll.

The ugly truth is that Covid-19 is not going away. The only question is whether it mutates into a relatively harmless seasonal flu, or if, from the uneven worldwide vaccination process, some new monster will surge.

Crucially, how can we be more prepared for the next outbreak?

Much has been said about building stronger institutions, but it is also vital to build stronger citizens – better prepared to withstand infection.

It is no secret among my friends that I have always had an interest in health, and preventative care. Why live to 81 (the average life expectancy in the UK – one of the lowest in Europe) when you could live to 150?

There are two recommendations that I, as an amateur, offer on how to make Britain healthier.

The first step must be education. Schools need to put more emphasis on cooking and nutrition.

Last Wednesday I made my maiden speech to the House of Lords. In it, I discussed the tragedy of this country's high death toll from the pandemic. Pictured: Stock image

Last Wednesday I made my maiden speech to the House of Lords. In it, I discussed the tragedy of this country’s high death toll from the pandemic. Pictured: Stock image

I laud community organisations like Haringey Play in London for giving free cooking lessons to local children. Pictured: Stock image

I laud community organisations like Haringey Play in London for giving free cooking lessons to local children. Pictured: Stock image

I laud community organisations like Haringey Play in London for giving free cooking lessons to local children.

This will allow the next generation to be more independent and able to control their own diets.

But we need not stop at children. This summer, I am launching a science podcast which will break down scientific innovation and biotech for the layman.

We must capitalise on the current hyper-awareness to expand the debate about our personal health and longevity.

Pictured: Evgeny Lebedev

Pictured: Evgeny Lebedev

The second step is preventative healthcare. Currently, too much of our collective attention goes into treatment of illness.

Thanks to technological advances, we have insulin pumps, ventilators and pacemakers that allow people to live much longer, whereas in previous centuries they would have died early.

But we need to focus more on the prevention of disease – especially since ageing has been classified as a disease by the World Health Organisation – which will allow people to live longer and more meaningful lives.

A personal emphasis on nutrition, limiting processed sugar-rich foods, and simple exercise would be a welcome start. 

Some countries build sport into people’s working day, others legislate to ensure people have the time to do so on their own.

The Government has to step up and play a role. For example, the legislation on labelling of calories should be binned and replaced with sugar content warnings.

They should also pay closer attention to DNA testing. Already, doctors can use DNA analysis to warn patients about their risk of developing certain diseases. 

Personalised medicine is the imminent future, and needs to be as accessible as a PCR test for Covid.

The Government has to step up and play a role. For example, the legislation on labelling of calories should be binned and replaced with sugar content warnings. Pictured: Stock image

The Government has to step up and play a role. For example, the legislation on labelling of calories should be binned and replaced with sugar content warnings. Pictured: Stock image

This is a no-brainer and would save billions for the NHS.

Very little of this is rocket science. We all want to live long, healthy lives.

The tragedy of Covid-19 has shone a light on the work that needs to be done to improve health outcomes.

Thank God for our brilliant scientists who developed the vaccines so quickly. 

But the real miracle would be if, after this traumatic year, Britons stood up and took their health into their own hands.

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