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Should the state control what we eat?

By Adrian Curtis

Should the state control our diets? Just one of the issues to go under the spotlight during the Cambridge Festival of Ideas
Should the state control our diets? Just one of the issues to go under the spotlight during the Cambridge Festival of Ideas

Festival of Ideas to discuss major issues facing society today

Should people have the freedom to decide or should there be more state control over our diets?

That’s just one of the questions to be discussed during the forthcoming Festival of Ideas in Cambridge next month.

The festival, organised by Cambridge University and supported by the Cambridge Independent, runs from October 15-28 and features over 200 events focussed on the most topical issues facing us as a society.

This year, the festival’s theme is ‘extremes’.

Following the report from Pubic Health England this week, which revealed growing rates of obesity as one of the leading risk factors for ill health, an event on October 23 investigates whether people or the state should have more control over diets.

Dr Jean Adams, from the centre for diet and activity research, said: “The debate about what people put on their plates can become very polarised – the free individual versus the controlling nanny state. But the

reality is much more complex. Where we live, our background, and our financial or social resources will all influence how free we are to make certain choices. And for those setting policy, it can be a fine balancing act between respecting this freedom of choice and needing to act on pressing challenges facing society and the economy. We also need to know what is and isn’t likely to work to improve diets, which often isn’t a straightforward question.”

On October 17, two historians, a psychologist, a scientist and a relationship counsellor come together to debate and ask: Does marriage make us healthier?

Spouses promise to care for one another in sickness and in health, but research suggests that these vows might determine the quality and length of your life.

Recent scientific studies show that couples mutually influence each other’s mental and physical health trajectories. Being married has been linked to a lower incidence of disease and higher rate of recovery.

Pooled data from University College London reveals that lifelong singletons are 42 per cent more likely to develop dementia than their married counterparts. The quality of marriage, one study suggested, could have the same impact on wellbeing and life-expectancy as diet or exercise.

Further events related to health include:

• Dance in hospital, October 15. A discussion about the health impacts of dance. For the past two years, Cambridge University Hospitals has run the UK’s first hospital dance programme, bringing professional dancers to regular sessions on wards. Researchers, dancers and nurses discuss the impact of these sessions and the evidence for dance improving patient care.

• Under the skin: exhibition, October 15-28. Photographer Richard Fraser looks under the skin of the NHS at Addenbrooke’s, seeking out hidden corners, unseen aspects of care and what makes the hospital work even under unprecedented pressure.

• Care: from periphery to centre, October 15-28. Site-specific installation by renowned artist Elena Cologni. The project highlights Maud Cloudesley Brereton and Leah Manning as figures of international importance, representing Homerton College’s historic concern with health and wellbeing.

• Under the skin: artist’s talk, October 15. Seeing a hospital as an abstract space, can we understand better the challenges facing the NHS? Architectural photographer Richard Fraser and Addenbrooke’s Head of Arts, Damian Hebron, discuss healthcare through the photographer’s lens.

• Do we have the right to exterminate (all) parasites? October 20. Interactive debate that explores our relationship with parasites and discusses their right to live.

• Care: historical and contemporary perspectives, October 21. Historians, art curators and medical researchers compare concerns over care, health and wellbeing, and reflect on how ideas, practices and spaces of care have moved from peripheral to central roles in society.

Bookings open on 24th September and can be made by telephone 01223 766766 or online: https://www.festivalofideas.cam.ac.uk/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cambridgefestivalofideas

Twitter: https://twitter.com/camideasfest #cfi2018

The festival sponsors and partners are St John’s College, Anglia Ruskin University, RAND Europe, University of Cambridge Museums and Botanic Garden, Cambridge Junction and Cambridge University Press. The festival media partners are BBC Radio Cambridgeshire and Cambridge Independent.


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