You couldn’t really make it up.
As the very real West African Ebola epidemic death toll continues to mount exponentially, and threatens to spill into Europe and the USA, hundreds of delegates are flying into Moscow tonight for the World Health Organisation’s conference on the entirely imaginary global tobacco epidemic.
There they will be met by Vladimir Putin, and will spend five days discussing ways of imposing a global tax on tobacco, and making life even worse for the 40 million Russian smokers now enduring the public smoking ban that was introduced on 1 June this year.
The only small fly in the ointment will be the absence of the US delegation (and also the Canadian and maybe the Australian delegations) thanks to international tensions surrounding the Ukrainian crisis.
Eve Adams, the parliamentary secretary to [Canadian] Health Minister Rona Ambrose, called the event a farcical international conference.
What we’re seeing unfolding are the consequences of a shift by the WHO, under the leadership of Gro Harlem Brundtland, from classical disease-treatment medicine to preventative “lifestyle” medicine, starting circa 1990. For, with a great many infectious diseases having been brought under control, it was now believed that the principal threat to human health and longevity were “epidemics” of smoking, drinking, obesity, lack of exercise, and so on.
The result – and most likely the inevitable result – was that when the Ebola epidemic got under way in West Africa in late 2013, the WHO failed to respond to it until it had spiralled out of control six months later, as recently detailed by retired professor of medicine Romano Grieshaber.
It remains to be seen how widespread the Ebola epidemic will eventually become, although politicians like Rand Paul and Boris Johnson have begun to sound the alarm. And while civilian populations remain calm, there are increasing signs of confusion within governments and media faced with the kind of epidemic most of them had thought was past history.
But when the dust settles, and the bodies have all been finally buried, is it really going to be possible for the WHO and the medical profession to simply carry on with their lifestyle healthism where they left off? Isn’t it more likely that there will be intense pressure for them to go back to their core function of communicable disease treatment and prevention? For what is the point of trying to prevent disease and death in 30 or 40 years time, when there remain communicable diseases which are capable of killing a great many people inside 2 or 3 weeks? And when furthermore the attempt to prevent non-communicable disease in 30 or 40 years time has diverted scarce resources away from communicable diseases that can kill inside 2 or 3 weeks?
For the money that is now being spent flying ASH’s Deborah Arnott and her fellow delegates to 4-star or 5-star hotels in Moscow could have been (and should have been) spent on real diseases like Ebola, which have been known about for nearly 40 years without either a vaccine or a cure being found.
With luck, the current “farcical” and useless conference in Moscow will be the last of its kind.