What ever you wear to festival (and how smelly it gets) this year at least you are not gonna trip on your shoelaces :-p
The argument to keep Britain in the EU, by "Bremain" has been a passionate one. With finance experts citing that the UK will lose out on £xxx amounts of business, investing, interest, trade and personal finance. This has been met with counter arguments from the "Brexit" camp that has disagreed stating that Britain is so great that we can withstand it and build our own economy. How coming out of globalisation and a global economy can be forward thinking is a mystery to me, but hey...
What hasn't been considered so much is what the EU wants. It has been announce this week that the EU economy is on the way to recovery, is finally back on the way up while the £sterling is actually losing value with evidence of another recession looming. It is understandable that the uncertainty of what the UK will do has put finance decisions on hold causing a shift in the value of the pound but this pattern has not had much media coverage. Is there a reason that the public are not being told? What is the effect of the pound losing value while the Euro gains value? Would the UK be able to trade alone against a stronger Europe while in "recession"? How does this change the whole debate? When the £sterling is no longer strong against the Euro, Would this change the Brexit debate completely? Is the Eurozone actually better off without the UK?
The “great sugar debate” that gained a lot of momentum over the last few years, comes to a dramatic climax this summer as health experts inform the public about the effects of consuming too much sugar. Won on undeniable facts, the debate presents sugar as the dastardly evil, ruining the health of the nation. The effects of consuming too much sugar includes increased risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and tooth decay. Excessive sugar intake is also linked to the increase in obesity. It comes as a stark warning that for many years we have been warned about eating too much fat when all along it was sugar – its addictive qualities enticing us to consume more whilst providing no dietary benefits have put health experts in a spin setting out an array of solutions to wean people off the “white stuff.” There are many reasons why Health experts are keen to support initiatives to inform the public about the health risks in a bid to change eating habits. But is this enough? If sugar is as addictive is it enough to just tell people to stop? If sugar is also this harmful, should we not as a society seek to do more to remove it from our everyday foods? In the same way that cigarettes have slowly been weaned from general sight, should we as a society collectively remove sugar away from our general sight only available on a need to buy basis for occasional treats and seasonal gifts?
Being discussed at Parliamentary level, it was revealed through the Department of Health’s scientific advisers that the recommended that daily sugar intake should be cut from 10% of daily energy intake to 5%, equivalent to about six teaspoons of sugar (96 calories). Following this, Public Health England proposed the key interventions to Sugar reduction in the 2014 report: “Sugar reduction: responding to the challenge”. The reports indicate the immediate need to act because:
“Reducing sugar consumption, particularly in the most disadvantaged groups in society, is also likely to improve health equality, have a positive impact on the nation’s mental health and wellbeing, and save costs to the NHS and local authorities by reducing social care costs. The most recent estimates are that excess body weight and poor dental health costs the NHS alone £4.7billion and £3.4 billion a year respectively. The social care costs of these conditions, which will fall to local authorities, are difficult to estimate, but are likely to be significant.”
The immediate actions proposed by Public Health England included: the launch of a digital marketing package to help families and individuals reduce their sugar intake, a focused national behaviour change campaign on sugar reduction, refresh of the “5 a day” campaign, and advice on fruit juice and smoothies, advising departments, industry, non-governmental organisations and a revision of key dietary messaging and improvement tools, such as the “eatwell plate.” and Change4Life messaging.
In addition, the food industry contributed to initiatives that aim to improve diets that specifically relate to sugar. Member companies of the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) have agreed that it is vital to clearly label sugar content on food packaging. They also recognise the challenges of doing this;
“Most packaged products carry front-of-pack nutrition information for energy (calories) plus fat, saturates, sugars and salt in grams. Dietitians encourage people to look at all of this information, not only sugar, so they know what's in their overall diet.”
Re-educating the nation will go a long to changing attitudes to food consumption and the effects of consuming sugary food and drinks. Educating the public in different ways such as through local authority, by labelling, by promotions, by online and digital initiatives allow Health advisers to reach different groups of society and put forward the messages in the best way appropriate for the key target group.
Another way to approach the debate is the view that if sugar is so dangerous, why not impose restrictions either on food producers, on supermarkets that promote them so strongly in stores, on advertisers that place adverts in pride of place to target children and young people or on the public that buy cheap sugary produce at the expense of looking for alternative healthier options? The advertising standards authority recognise that food advertising is influential in how consumers decide what to buy and are “committed to ensuring ads do not contain anything that is likely to result in a child’s physical, mental or moral harm.” They also state that advertising is not a “social engineer” meaning that what is presented in advertising should not be used to decide if something is good or bad. This doesn’t take into account the pressurised nature of persuasive techniques. The whole intention of advertising is to encourage someone to heed the message so even though consumers should take some responsibility for what they purchase, that is going to happen only if they are strong in willpower.
Taking the lead on taxing sugary drinks, Jamie Oliver’s restaurants have added a 10p tax on all sugary drinks served with the profits going to fund Sustain, a charity that supports better food and farming advocates, food and agriculture policies and practices that enhance the health and welfare of people and animals. However, FDF advise that
“Existing VAT on food and drink raises well over £10bn for the Exchequer annually. Additional taxes on certain products have not been found to influence diets over the long-term where they've been trialled.”
By putting the onus of reducing sugar consumption on the public through higher prices and increased taxation, government will be able to raise funds and potentially re-invest it into such initiatives. However, who is to say that increased prices or taxation of sugary food will change the eating habits of consumers especially when we already know that sugar is addictive.
If sugar is so damaging, can it be outlawed and restricted in the same way the alcohol and cigarettes are? Correct labelling of food on packing is already a direct EU requirement but should restrictions on food producers go further than this? Clearly the World Health Organisation release of new daily recommendations has already influenced food producers and inspired change in the interest of maintaining customer relations. Unilever have stated on their website that they have taken on board the advice given by experts:
“We recognise that energy intake from sugar should be limited, in line with recommendations by a number of organisations, such as the World Health Organization and the American Heart Association. We use sugar responsibly, while delivering great-tasting and appealing products. We are reducing sugar in our existing products such as Lipton and Brisk ice teas. We are also developing new, lower-sugar drinks using non-nutritive sweeteners like Stevia (steviol glycosides). This is an ingredient derived from the leaf of the Stevia rebaudiana plant and helps to maintain the level of sweetness that people expect.”
By placing the responsibility of reducing sugar intake of the public in the hands of food producers is to place all our trust in private companies to do the right thing. How much are we willing to trust these companies to do their duty for the benefit of the public while balancing their profit margins? Will consumers heed the advice of health experts quickly enough to influence the food advisors to change the product ingredients? or will the changing taste of food negatively affect the product profit margins? After all we often forget about the foods that have a surprisingly high sugar content. A BBC report cited that a tomato based pasta sauce had 13g of sugar in a third of the jar. Which should come first, educating the consumer or expect producers to change their products? Making the environment easier for consumers to choose healthier food is a key strategic objective from the Public Health England report. Educating the public and expecting a duty of care on producers should go hand in hand.
The recent release of the pictures of performer and musician L’il Kim on Social Media caused a surge of shocked and puzzled responses. Some respondents couldn’t believe it was her, some were baffled as to how it could be possible to look so different and others were offended that a “woman of colour” would hate herself so much to completely change her face beyond any kind of recognition. What is clear is that the subject is still a very raw and difficult one. The image portrays a Caucasian woman with blonde hair that does not resembled the brown skinned woman that we recognise as L’il Kim the singer and artist. What it does raise once more is the debate among “women of colour” about identity, self-worth and why indeed in this day and time there is a desire to adhere to European standards of beauty regardless of where a person is from. Are “women of colour” still dying to be white?
The million-pound skin lightening industry is not specific to African and Caribbean cultures but the media coverage is likely most common because the effects are so dramatic. For a woman who is brown to be photographed as extremely lighter in shade is not something that can be easily dismissed. Raising the alarm in their recent news release, the British Skin Foundation reported that although there are skin lightening creams in the UK that are perfectly legal, they are not always ideal and the illegal creams that are often sold under the counter are so harmful they can cause irreparable damage to the user that includes; increased pigmentation, foetal abnormalities if used during pregnancy, and severe itchy rashes. In high doses, they can also cause psychological damage The report also states:
“It is these products, often obtained from ‘under the counter, that have the potential to be hugely damaging to the user’s health. The use of mercury in cosmetic products has been banned in the EU since 1976, Ingredients such as hydroquinone and high- dose steroids have also been deemed as illegal when used in cosmetics, thanks to the danger they may pose to users who are often unaware of any possible side effects. Devastatingly, some of these side effects may in fact leave the skin in a far worse state than it was to begin with.”
With this in mind, we are led to the questions; who uses these products? Why do they use it? And is the end result of having lighter skin worth the risk of all this damage?
When West African performer Dencia launched her ranged of skin care treatments; Whitenicious by Dencia, a skin care product line suitable for all skin types, from dark skin to light skin, for men and women that claims to “remove dark spots from any part of the body,” The media responded negatively and angry comments were shared across all social media. Even though the description of the products proudly states that “The Whitenicious line has no harsh toxic chemicals known to be harmful to the skin such as hydroquinone, mercury and steroids. Ingredients include fruit extracts, vitamin C & E which all help to naturally heal and clear the skin.” The contrast of her skin tone in the before and after images spoke more to the public than any product description ever could. It is one thing to care for your skin with what is considered “healing products” but it is another thing to promote the use of products that make the skin lighter.
This is an industry that makes money, so there are women with darker skin tones, purchasing products that make them lighter. Maybe there are personal and individual forces at play that act as a reason for wanting to use skin lightening products but for the majority what is troubling is the desire to adhere to a standard of beauty specific to a whole other race and not always compatible to the person’s own one. There was a time when blending into the Western ideal of beauty or Western ideals of behaviour was a necessity that one’s life was dependant upon. We all share the story of Rosa Parkes who when refusing to leave her seat on the bus for a white man was taken away by the police. There was a time when black people had no power and choice but to do as they were told. Today it is a difficult pill to swallow when a person chooses to use harmful chemical to bleach the skin as a choice. As an exception, those with medical conditions have a reason but for the majority contributing to the million-pound industry, it raises the issue of identity and self-worth. What are users of skin lightening creams so afraid of and how do you raise the self-worth of a whole generation?
if you’ve been paying attention, you may already know about the hashtag #blackgirlmagic. For a whole host of reasons, #blackgirlmagic has become a default label for anything that promotes work and achievement of girls and women with an African or Caribbean heritage. It is a direct response to the things that promote Caucasian and western ideals of beauty at the expense of African and Caribbean culture and gives voice and recognition to the identity of African, Caribbean race, culture, beauty and hair. It seeks not to disrespect any other culture but only build and support those who have for so long been on the side-lines of what has been seen as ideal in Western. Summed up nicely by writer Julee Wilson of Huffington Post:
“Black Girl Magic is a term used to illustrate the universal awesomeness of black women. It’s about celebrating anything we deem particularly dope, inspiring, or mind-blowing about ourselves.”
Central to #BlackGirlmagic is the changing attitudes to how women of African and Caribbean heritage present their hair. The move away from using hair relaxers that chemically straightening African kinky textured hair has changed the cosmetic and beauty industry. According to Mintel, sales of hair relaxers dropped by 26% between 2008 – 2013 resulting in new products been born and reborn as a result. The effect on the multi-million-dollar industry is in itself a recognition of the impact that the opinion and behaviours of women of African and Caribbean heritage have, it is a shame that not everyone is yet to realise this enough to encourage self-worth and belief. Something so simple as to allow hair to grow has caused such waves in a whole industry. The growing of hair is so natural that although it is often labelled as a “revolution” could not really be deemed as such but it is more accurately described as a revelation and realisation that the restriction of choice that was once so apparent is no longer there.
When is “OK” not “ok”? and what can you do in that point in time? This year, Mental Health Awareness Week 2016 takes place from 16-22 May 2016. In light of the growing knowledge of what it is and in support of those that deal with the various symptoms of mental health problems, Mental Health Awareness week aims to dispel the stigma and provide information on the symptoms.
The definition of “Mental Health Problems” is wide and varied because we all have mental health and can look at it the same way that we look at physical health. The medical description defines symptoms of mental health problems as traditionally:
“divided into groups called either ‘neurotic’ or ‘psychotic’ symptoms. ‘Neurotic’ covers those symptoms which can be regarded as severe forms of ‘normal’ emotional experiences such as depression, anxiety or panic. Less common are ‘psychotic’ symptoms, which interfere with a person’s perception of reality, and may include hallucinations such as seeing, hearing, smelling or feeling things that no one else can….” (https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/your-mental-health/about-mental-health/what-are-mental-health-problems#sthash.cnCckzRY.dpuf)
There is a call to action for information, advice, research, support and preventative treatments and services that support people dealing with these symptoms and also provide education and support for those that are affected or are just discovering they have symptoms. For example, there are things that individuals can do daily or regularly to reduce instances of anxiety before it leads to more distressing symptoms or even full blown depression. This year, the Mental Health Awareness campaigns are centred around the theme of relationships and the promotion of good relationships, mounting pressures on work–life balance and the impact of bullying and unhealthy relationships.
According to recent statistics, “It is estimated that 1 in 4 people in England will experience a mental health problem in any given year.” This means that if you sit next to 3 of your closest friends, it is likely that one of you has been affected by some kind of mental health problem now, in the past or will do in future. If it is none of them, it may be yourself. This could be any number of mental health problem but the most common according to the data is; depression and anxiety. Both of these conditions have a strong statistical link to “economic disadvantage across society”. The report states the “The poorer and more disadvantaged are disproportionately affected by common mental health problems and their adverse consequences” Mental Health and Wellbeing is a subject that is so internal and so personal to each and every one of us, it could be seen as one of the last taboos of our time. The good news is that the days of locking away the mentally ill among us into secret institutions is a thing of the past especially as the causes are so deeply rooted in the economic conditions and level of wealth of society members. With the changes to benefits and welfare, increases in rents in the major cities, changes to availability of jobs and referrals to Food banks causing a lot of stresses within families, this statistical evidence cannot be ignored and action is forced upon us as a community to act or be overwhelmed.
Giving a voice to sufferers of mental illness is vital. The personal nature of mental health means that without an outlet for these stresses, we become a nation of silent sufferers, pretending everything is ok. The risk is that at any moment, the ticking “time bomb” may take one too many pressures, resulting in an action that causes harm to either the individual or anyone that happens to be around them. Allowing people to voice their feelings and take appropriate action in the early stages is vital. Campaigns such as beMindful.co.uk use a stress test that takes away the stigma of mental health problems by focusing on the effect of the external stresses in life. This way individuals look at how they can best manage themselves. Self-diagnoses apps and tests pinpoint a person’s level of anxiety at that point in time and encourages them to seek help if the results suggest to or find ways to manage the level that they are at. The Mindfulness course promises to bring many potential benefits including reduced levels of stress, depression and anxiety within only 4 weeks when practised daily. Individuals have the opportunity to not only recognise their current mental state and be accountable for it but to manage it and make active decisions to improve their mental wellbeing.
Sometimes asking “R U OK?” is an important question and sometimes when the answer is “no” it becomes an even more important question. Knowing what to do and how to deal with the answer then becomes everybody’s problem and that’s why Mental Health Awareness Week is so necessary.
When a mother of 10 talks to a conference room full of women about leadership, we realise that a new era of leadership and professional empowerment is emerging…
Voice at The Table, a diversity and inclusion consultancy with the core aim of providing companies and their workforce with the tools to progress and contribute authentically and improving the representation of women at all levels announced that Dr Danusia Malina-Derben will be speaking at the annual event; Changing The Playing Field Conference taking place on 8th July 2016 Hogan Lovells LLP in London.
The aim of the event poses the key question; What does it take to be a 21st century leader? And recognises that the corporate landscape is changing, as is leadership. There is a need for people who lead with purpose and authenticity. Some might call it “feminine leadership”. Regardless of the name, the leaders of tomorrow are stepping up and looking towards an exciting new landscape.
So who is Dr Danusia Malina-Derben? And why has she been selected to be a main guest at such an important event? Voice at the Table explain that “as well as being a devoted mother to her 10 children, Danusia is a highly experienced and straight-talking top-leadership consultant who specialises in transforming C-suite executives into world-class leaders with unstoppable business prowess.
So what will happen on the day? Voice at the Table, founded by Rina Goldenberg Lynch, an Accredited Associate Executive Coach and a qualified ILM Level 5 trainer gives us a sneak peek by explaining that Danusia will be sharing her vision and advice on the unique strengths women and men can bring to leadership roles at this important and inspiring conference. She said; “It is so important to come together and talk about the ways in which we can harness our unique corporate strengths in productive and collaborative ways. I’m very excited and honoured to be a key note speaker at the Changing The Playing Field Conference and look forward to meeting, engaging with and learning from the inspiring delegates.”
Founder, Rina Goldenberg-Lynch has worked for 20 years as a City lawyer and executive and so has a wealth of skills that a corporate career imparts. In recent years, Rina has been working on diversity and inclusion matters (D&I), including strategy development and initiatives. She has experience coaching and mentoring women across the board in corporate, not-for-profit and entrepreneurial sectors.
Abi the fashion blogger