My fascination with food policy can be traced back more than 20 years. It began with my conversion from clinical medicine to public health during the inspiring MSc course in Edinburgh. My initial research on hypertension therapies and survival after heart attacks led naturally to bigger epidemiological studies quantifying the (surprisingly small ) contributions from medical therapies, and the major roles of blood pressure, cholesterol, obesity and diabetes. I eventually figured out that these biological factors were powerfully influenced by diet. And that food consumption was much more about social environments rather than individual ‘choice’. Eureka!
I was fortunate that this personal evolution was supported by great mentors, and informed by my involvement with Heart of Mersey, a large regional cardiovascular disease prevention charity, and my work advising UK agencies including the National Heart Forum, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) and the British Heart Foundation. This raised a number of key questions and stimulated a number of innovative and topical research projects. Our recent research has demonstrated that population-wide prevention policies can be powerful, rapid, equitable and cost saving. We have also extensively explored decision makers’ perspectives (both policy makers and planners). This has cast new light on the contested role of evidence in policy development. Rarely is the process linear or rational! We are currently systematically reviewing evidence and quantifying the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of food policies in Europe, the Middle East and beyond.
This experience has been very helpful in the development of recent influential NICE Guidance (NICE Public Health Guidance: Prevention of cardiovascular disease at population level. 2010: http://guidance.nice.org.uk/PH25), and in writing a European Association for Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation (EACPR) position paper on population-level changes to promote cardiovascular health
I had been aware for some time of the great work done by the Association and its stellar membership. It was therefore a pleasure and a privilege to participate in the Rio2012 conference and finally meet my heroes!
The work before, during and after the UN High Level Meeting on Non-Communicable Diseases in September last year has also served as wonderful stimulus for previously disparate and fragmented groups to meet and work together in healthy alliances. This work was thankfully formalised by the WHO World Health Assembly as their new ’25 x 25′ goal – a 25 per cent reduction in chronic non-communicable diseases by the year 2025. As an experienced epidemiologist, I know that this goal is eminently feasible, but only if governments use proven and effective regulatory policies to control tobacco and junk food. And so that is my vision for the future: the Association taking a leading role to achieve a world that is essentially free of tobacco, junk food and sugared drinks.
Professor of Clinical Epidemiology in the Department of Public Health at the University of Liverpool .Trained as a physician in Newcastle and Edinburgh, before I discovered public health in Edinburgh, then moved to Glasgow University before becoming the first professor of clinical epidemiology at the University of Liverpool in 1999.
My major research interests centre around developing and refining computer models for studying population trends in cardiovascular disease, and evaluating policy interventions for preventing cardiovascular disease. Funding so far has come from the UK Medical Research Council, the European Union, the British Heart Foundation, and elsewhere. This work has provided great opportunities for international collaborative projects with some fabulous people.
I contribute to policy development and service work locally, nationally and internationally, including recently having chaired, vice-chaired or supported a variety of committees including the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, the British Heart Foundation, the European Society of Cardiology, the European Heart Network, Heart of Mersey, the UK National Heart Forum, NICE, the UK Faculty of Public Health, and WHO.