Monday, October 29, 2012

The man who ate 25 eggs per day: What does this case really tell us?

Many readers of this blog have probably heard about the case of the man who ate approximately 25 eggs (20 to 30) per day for over 15 years (probably well over), was almost 90 years old (88) when the case was published in the prestigious The New England Journal of Medicine, and was in surprisingly good health ().

The case was authored by the late Dr. Fred Kern, Jr., a widely published lipid researcher after whom the Kern Lipid Conference is named (). One of Kern’s research interests was bile, a bitter-tasting fluid produced by the liver (and stored in the gallbladder) that helps with the digestion of lipids in the small intestine. He frames the man’s case in terms of a compensatory adaptation tied to bile secretion, arguing that this man was rather unique in his ability to deal with a lethal daily dose of dietary cholesterol.

Kern seemed to believe that dietary cholesterol was harmful, but that this man was somehow “immune” to it. This is ironic, because often this case is presented as evidence against the hypothesis that dietary cholesterol can be harmful. The table below shows the general nutrient content of the man’s daily diet of eggs. The numbers in this and other tables are based on data from (), in some cases triangulated with other data. The 5.3 g of cholesterol in the table (i.e., 5,300 mg) is 1,775 percent the daily value recommended by the Institute of Medicine of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences ().

As you can see, the man was on a very low carbohydrate diet with a high daily intake of fat and protein. The man is described as an: “… 88-year-old man who lived in a retirement community [and] complained only of loneliness since his wife's death. He was an articulate, well-educated elderly man, healthy except for an extremely poor memory without other specific neurologic deficits … His general health had been excellent, without notable symptoms. He had mild constipation.”

The description does not suggest inherited high longevity: “His weight had been constant at 82 to 86 kg (height, 1.87 m). He had no history (according to the patient and his personal physician of 15 years) of heart disease, stroke, or kidney disease … The patient had never smoked and never drank excessively. His father died of unknown causes at the age of 40, and his mother died at 76 … He kept a careful record, egg by egg, of the number ingested each day …”

The table below shows the fat content of the man’s daily diet of eggs. With over 14 g of omega-6 fat intake every day, this man was probably close to or in “industrial seed oils territory” (), as far as daily omega-6 fat intake is concerned. And the intake of omega-3 fats, at less than 1 g, was not nearly enough to balance it. However, here is a relevant fact – this man was not consuming any industrial seed oils. He liked his eggs soft-boiled, which is why the numbers in this post refer to boiled eggs.

This man weighed between 82 to 86 kg, which is about 180 to 190 lbs. His height was 1.87 m, or about 6 ft 1 in. Therefore his body mass index varied between approximately 23 and 25, which is in the normal range. In other words, this person was not even close to obese during the many years he consumed 25 eggs or so per day. In the comments section of a previous post, on the sharp increase in obesity since the 1980s (), several readers argued that the sharp increase in obesity was very likely caused by an increase in omega-6 fat consumption.

I am open to the idea that industrialized omega-6 fats played a role in the sharp increase in obesity observed since the 1980s. When it comes to omega-6 fat consumption in general, including that in “more natural” foods (e.g., poultry and eggs), I am more skeptical. Still, it is quite possible that a diet high in omega-6 fats in general is unhealthy primarily if it is devoid of other nutrients. This man’s overall diet might have been protective not because of what he was not eating, but because of what he was eating.

The current debates pitting one diet against another often revolve around the ability of one diet or another to eliminate or reduce the intake of a “bad thing” (e.g., cholesterol, saturated fat, carbohydrates). Perhaps the discussion should be more focused on, or at least not completely ignore, what one diet or another include as protective factors. This would help better explain “odd findings”, such as the lowest-mortality body mass index of 26 in urban populations (). It would also help better explain “surprising cases”; such as this 25-eggs-a-day man’s, vegetarian-vegan “ageless woman” Annette Larkins’s (), and the decidedly carnivore De Vany couple’s ().

The table below shows the vitamin content of the man’s daily diet of eggs. The vitamin K2 content provided by was incorrect; I had to get what seems to be the right number by triangulating values taken from various publications. And here we see something interesting. This man was consuming approximately the equivalent in vitamin K2 that one would get by eating 4 ounces of foie gras () every day. Foie gras, the fatty liver of overfed geese, is the richest known animal source of vitamin K2. This man’s diet was also high in vitamin A, which is believed to act synergistically with vitamin K2 – see Chris Masterjohn’s article on Weston Price’s “activator X” ().

Kern argued that the very high intake of dietary cholesterol led to a sharp increase in bile secretion, as the body tried to “get rid” of cholesterol (which is used in the synthesis of bile). However, the increased bile secretion might have been also been due to the high fat content of this man’s diet, since one of the main functions of bile is digestion of fats. Whatever the case may be, increased bile secretion leads to increased absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, and vitamins K2 and A are fat-soluble vitamins that seem to be protective against cardiovascular disease, cancer and other degenerative diseases.

Finally, the table below shows the mineral content of the man’s daily diet of eggs. As you can see, this man consumed 550 percent the officially recommended daily intake of selenium. This intake was slightly lower than the 400 micrograms per day purported to cause selenosis in adults (). Similarly to vitamins K2 and A, selenium seems to be protective against cardiovascular disease, cancer and other degenerative diseases. This man’s diet was also rich in phosphorus, needed for healthy teeth and bones.

Not too many people live to be 88 years of age; many fewer reach that age in fairly good health. The country with the highest average life expectancy in the world at the time of this writing is Japan, with a life expectancy of about 82 years (79 for men, and 86 for women). Those who think that they need a high HDL cholesterol and a low LDL cholesterol to be in good health, and thus live long lives, may be surprised at this man’s lipid profile: “The patient's plasma lipid levels were normal: total cholesterol, 5.18 mmol per liter (200 mg per deciliter); LDL, 3.68 mmol per liter (142 mg per deciliter); and HDL, 1.17 mmol per liter (45 mg per deciliter). The ratio of LDL to HDL cholesterol was 3.15.”

If we assume that this man is at least somewhat representative of the human species, and not a major exception as Kern argued, this case tells us that a diet of 25 eggs per day followed by over 15 years may actually be healthy for humans. Such diet has the following features:

- It is very high in dietary cholesterol.

- It involves a high intake of omega-6 fats from animal sources, with none coming from industrial seed oils.

- It involves a high overall intake of fats, including saturated fats.

- It is fairly high in protein, all of which from animal sources.

- It is a very low carbohydrate diet, with no sugar in it.

- It is a nutritious diet, rich in vitamins K2 and A, as well as in selenium and phosphorus.

This man ate 25 eggs per day apparently due to an obsession tied to mental problems. Repeated attempts at changing his behavior were unsuccessful. He said: “Eating these eggs ruins my life, but I can't help it.”

Sunday, October 28, 2012

藝術為健康 - Extra, Extra, read all about it...

The week kicked off with a campaign to raise awareness of this growing movement we call arts and health, and with my colleagues on the National Alliance for Arts, Health and Wellbeing we’ve been celebrating what’s happening nationally, regionally and locally. What - you didn’t read the press coverage, or see us on the TV? You must be blind! Of course, the media have been wrapped up in all things BBC and Savile, and with their natural preoccupation with the sordid and scandalous, its been something of a bun-fight for the most appalling headlines, only with the main player long dead. Hideous, the whole thing. Anyway, I thought that in the absence of any hard-hitting arts health stories to hit the nationals, I would do two things: one, link you to some of the case studies from around England, (but believe me, there are rich stories beyond the confines of England; of the UK, and that s t r e t c h much further afield, beyond this little island, and that I will share very soon) that you can find by clicking on the Chicken & Ham Pie; the other is to have had a look through two of our good old Rags for signs of life and with an eye for a relevant cultural story or two.

So here are some of the cultural highlights from The SUN 
and The Guardian on Thursday 25th October 2012. 

What are these papers styles?
Guardian = Left leaning ex-broadsheet, with smug feature writers in G2 section, who enjoy nothing better than seeing large photographs of themselves wasting valuable column inches.

The SUN = Right leaning tabloid gibberish. In-print shock-jock sensationalism. Impossible to buy in Liverpool. 

Cover Headlines
Guardian = Cameron ready to claim worst of the recession is over for UK. Trailer for feature on music in Mali.

The SUN = Why I dumped ‘crazy’ Katie. Trailer for Free Holland’s Pie   

Random Stories 1
Guardian page 3 feature - Very interesting full page story on the place of music in Malian culture, and the threat of extremism to musicians. “Culture is our is our mineral wealth,” Click on the photo above to read this powerful and important report.

The SUN page 3 feature - Lacey, 19 and Wayne (Rooney) glued to U.S. TV election debates 

Random Stories 2
Guardian page 7 feature on Suffragettes responding to the Secretary of State for Health’s recent comments on abortion.

The SUN page 7 feature, double page spread entitled, “Savile Paedo Lair Is Raided”. Enough said.

Random Stories 3
Guardian page 19 article, That same Secretary of State for Health to announce an extra £50million to create calming environments for people with dementia. The article even quotes the Kings Fund! (who were the organisation behind this weeks awareness raising campaign) 

The SUN page 19 article headlines, Throbbie Williams and, Spy Who Loved Me With His Pants On.

OK, I give up. Enough’s enough. I’ll just end this news review, with “The World’s Most Repulsive Cake Shop” in the Guardian - great stuff, just click on the body part above. They have one more article on Barbara Hepworth’s delicate and beautiful studies of orthopaedic surgeons at work in NHS hospitals. A neat article to coincide with an exhibition at the Hepworth in Wakefield, and one in which the journalist Jonathan Jones conjoins her socialist ideals with the birth of the NHS. he comments; 

“In 2012, the NHS is threatened, its future uncertain. In Wakefield, like everywhere else, there are signs that austerity has returned. Where are the values that protected British people back then, creating the NHS just as Hepworth was glorifying such common labour? Near the station, a once-grand trade union hall stands empty. Hepworth was a Labour voter – of course she was. In these drawings, she reveals her egalitarian values. Work is goodness: she sees her own work as a sculptor reflected in the steady eye and hand of the surgeon. In one drawing, he even seems to wield a hammer and chisel. But this is not mere artistic self-consciousness. The work being done in these pictures saves lives; Hepworth believes her art, too, can heal souls.” 

Some of you eager eyed readers, might remember that great publicity stunt of the SUN, way back when, when they ‘exposed’ the scandal of arts spending, in their notorious, Taking The Picasso headline! Even then, they had some great offers for their readers in mind. Now it’s PIES - then it was chips: chips eh? You’ve got to love their commitment to Good Old British Wellbeing. I don’t know about you, but it makes me warm to the core. Bang it in the microwave. 

limbic from Institut Fuer Musik Und Medien on Vimeo.

STOP PRESS: even though the Guardian's replant vodafone advertising this week was appalling, (considering their own reporting of its zero payment of corporation tax in the UK) Deborah Orr wrote a superb short article on the potency of culture. Just click on this banner to read it. Great stuff...almost as good as a cold meat pie.

Thank you as ever for your emails and for reading the blog...please share, far and wide...C.P.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

art + culture = pouvoir

Here’s another piece of research equating mental ill-health and creativity. I’m sure there’s lot’s in it that’s relevant to our field and it is interesting, but there’s always going to be a danger that we exoticise the ‘tortured’ genius and in so doing, neglect the thousands of people who are simply distressed by their health, perhaps worse still, fail to address the social and economic determinants of mental distress. Click on the photo below for a BBC article on the research, of which the text below summarises the main points. 

A new piece of research from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research has found that in a study of more than a million people, creativity is often part of a mental illness, with writers particularly susceptible to a higher risk of anxiety and bipolar disorders, schizophrenia, unipolar depression, and substance abuse. Lead researcher Dr Simon Kyaga said the findings suggested disorders should be viewed in a new light and that certain traits might be beneficial or desirable. Citing the restrictive and intense interests of someone with autism and the manic drive of a person with bipolar disorder might provide the necessary focus and determination for genius and creativity. Similarly, the disordered thoughts associated with schizophrenia might spark the all-important originality element of a masterpiece. 

Dr Kyaga said: "If one takes the view that certain phenomena associated with the patient's illness are beneficial, it opens the way for a new approach to treatment. "In that case, the doctor and patient must come to an agreement on what is to be treated, and at what cost. Beth Murphy, head of information at Mind, said bipolar disorder personality traits could be beneficial to those in creative professions, but it may also be that people with bipolar disorder are more attracted to professions where they can use their creative skills. "It is important that we do not romanticise people with mental health problems, who are too often portrayed as struggling creative geniuses. 

I AM: Art as an agent for change
I’ve spent the most intense few days on a residential, exploring the role of self-portraiture as part of the recovery pathway from substance addiction. With funding from Grundtvig I’ll be working with the Kütahya Green Crescent Branch in Turkey, Gruppo Incontro and FeDerSerD in Italy and Portraits of Recovery here in the UK and over the next two years, we'll be exploring our cultural differences and synergies in relation to recovery. As well as facilitating artists exchanges between the countries, I’ll be developing arts and health strategies with the partners and in 2014, we'll be holding an exhibition and public seminar here in Manchester.

Although the project is led by the UK, the demands of working in three languages and the subtleties of cultural and language differences, provide us with some unique challenges. For me this is a huge leap in the development of arts/health strategy, policy and practice. Not because old colonial Britain is out there sharing its ‘one nation’ nonsense, but because our dear old faded Albion, can learn a great deal from countries who don’t speak English as a first language. In general, I’ve found over the last decade or so, arts/health ‘events’ seem to be neatly divided between those speaking in English and the rest of the world! So part of this work, and other engagement I’m involved in, isn’t exporting the Empire of Arts and Health as some foreign policy, but absorbing other traditions and possibilities and sharing new realities. This might mean influencing policy change on one hand, but on the other it could be about reevaluating our own understanding of our sometimes hyper-inflated self belief.


The Strongest Weapon In The World
Radical DIY: artist-makers of extraordinary and poetic machines
 @ The Arts Catalyst, London 6pm doors open (bar). 6:30-9pm 

This event is free, but I'd advise getting in touch with Arts Catalyst about spaces. There'll be a number of artists there on the night, but I am particularly inspired by Korean artist Hojun Song who has built a fully functioning satellite. His tiny satellite is a DIY engineering masterpiece: he hacked together a solar cell, a lithium-ion battery, an Arduino board, and four powerful LED lights. The cube will transmit Morse code messages that can be seen from back on Earth. He has set up the Open Source Satellite Initiative to ensure others can follow. In 2010, he made the Strongest Weapon in the World - I Love You. If you hit it – with an extremely large mallet - it says “I love you”. It can withstand a nuclear attack. His Radioactive Jewelry meanwhile is not for those wishing for long life. 

For full details click on the moon.

For those of you interested in the Strongest Weapon, here is the artists description, and his handy hints on how to use it.

The strongest weapon in the world is an object that cannot be destroyed by any strong weapons in the world. When attacked, it responds with beautiful messages. And it lives forever to deliver those messages.
How it works: 
Wear the helmet - Grab the hammer - Hit the weapon really hard 

An Opportunity to Pitch for International Investment in Healthcare Businesses at Innoventure Europe.

This sounds like a really interesting and challenging opportunity. I can’t vouch for anything about this organisation or the process, but it sounds too interesting not to share.

The challenge of providing the most efficient care at the lowest cost possible in the healthcare industry is likely to amplify in the coming years and decades. While much of the answer lies in transforming the healthcare system from one focused on curing illnesses after they take place to one focused on preventing illness from happening in the first place, advances in the fields of bio-informatics, statistics-based targeted medicine, highly intelligent internet connected diagnostic devices, and wireless and mobile health apps that link patients to physicians, are all combining to usher in a radically different healthcare system focused on predictive care, personalized diagnostic and virtual treatment within bio-connected communities. INNOVENTURE EUROPE’s Best of Breed selection will uncover opportunities across these fields and many others.

This unique opportunity (within the two years of Innoventure Europe) is available to SMEs from across Western Europe to excite international business angel and venture capital investors with a 10 minute pitch. Innoventure Europe will be held in Central Paris on 13 December and is free for the 20 SMEs selected to pitch (normally €1,000). Personalised advice and coaching is also provided (including the day before in Paris) to maximize the impact of your pitch. To apply, click on the small urinating person above.

The first round of the 3-stage selection process takes approximately 25 minutes and closes on 12 November. Please note that participation in Innoventure Europe is dependent on a signed non-disclosure agreement to protect both you and others. Each event is also an important networking opportunity with close to 200 investors and start-ups in one technology area. 
For further information please contact Arthur Cornez at

Funding for IT Projects Supporting Disadvantaged Groups (UK)
Funding is available to organisations with innovative IT related project ideas that can make a positive difference to disadvantaged and vulnerable groups. The funding, which is available through the Nominet Trust, aims to fund innovative Internet projects that make a positive difference to the lives of disadvantaged and vulnerable people. The Trust is particularly interested in funding projects that can be scaled up and replicated. There is no minimum grant application and applications for over £100,000 require an interview. Organisations wishing to apply, need initially to complete and online application form. Those organisations deemed successful will be invited to complete the Stage 2 application form.

The next closing date for submitting initial Advisory Eligibility Forms is the 12th December 2012. Stage 2 applications to be submitted by the 31st January 2013. Read more at:

Hilton in the Community Foundation Grants (UK)
Organisations that work with young people have the opportunity to apply for grants through the Hilton Foundation. Organisations such as charities and other not for profits can apply for grants ranging from a few hundred pounds up to £30,000 per year for up to 2 years that meet one of the Foundation's chosen areas of focus. These are: 
Disabled children, Children in hospital, Homelessness, Life-limited children in hospices. 
The next closing date for applications is 5.30 pm on 12th February 2013. Read more at:

...and another manifesto teaser

Thank you as ever for following this blog...C.P.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The steep obesity increase in the USA in the 1980s: In a sense, it reflects a major success story

Obesity rates have increased in the USA over the years, but the steep increase starting around the 1980s is unusual. Wang and Beydoun do a good job at discussing this puzzling phenomenon (), and a blog post by Discover Magazine provides a graph (see below) that clear illustrates it ().

What is the reason for this?

You may be tempted to point at increases in calorie intake and/or changes in macronutrient composition, but neither can explain this sharp increase in obesity in the 1980s. The differences in calorie intake and macronutrient composition are simply not large enough to fully account for such a steep increase. And the data is actually full of oddities.

For example, an article by Austin and colleagues (which ironically blames calorie consumption for the obesity epidemic) suggests that obese men in a NHANES (2005–2006) sample consumed only 2.2 percent more calories per day on average than normal weight men in a NHANES I (1971–1975) sample ().

So, what could be the main reason for the steep increase in obesity prevalence since the 1980s?

The first clue comes from an interesting observation. If you age-adjust obesity trends (by controlling for age), you end up with a much less steep increase. The steep increase in the graph above is based on raw, unadjusted numbers. There is a higher prevalence of obesity among older people (no surprise here). And older people are people that have survived longer than younger people. (Don’t be too quick to say “duh” just yet.)

This age-obesity connection also reflects an interesting difference between humans living “in the wild” and those who do not, which becomes more striking when we compare hunter-gatherers with modern urbanites. Adult hunter-gatherers, unlike modern urbanites, do not gain weight as they age; they actually lose weight (, ).

Modern urbanites gain a significant amount of weight, usually as body fat, particularly after age 40. The table below, from an article by Flegal and colleagues, illustrates this pattern quite clearly (). Obesity prevalence tends to be highest between ages 40-59 in men; and this has been happening since the 1960s, with the exception of the most recent period listed (1999-2000).

In the 1999-2000 period obesity prevalence in men peaked in the 60-74 age range. Why? With progress in medicine, it is likely that more obese people in that age range survived (however miserably) in the 1999-2000 period. Obesity prevalence overall tends to be highest between ages 40-74 in women, which is a wider range than in men. Keep in mind that women tend to also live longer than men.

Because age seems to be associated with obesity prevalence among urbanites, it would be reasonable to look for a factor that significantly increased survival rates as one of the main reasons for the steep increase in the prevalence of obesity in the USA in the 1980s. If significantly more people were surviving beyond age 40 in the 1980s and beyond, this would help explain the steep increase in obesity prevalence. People don’t die immediately after they become obese; obesity is a “disease” that first and foremost impairs quality of life for many years before it kills.

Now look at the graph below, from an article by Armstrong and colleagues (). It shows a significant decrease in mortality from infectious diseases in the USA since 1900, reaching a minimum point between 1950 and 1960 (possibly 1955), and remaining low afterwards. (The spike in 1918 is due to the influenza pandemic.) At the same time, mortality from non-infectious diseases remains relatively stable over the same period, leading to a similar decrease in overall mortality.

When proper treatment options are not available, infectious diseases kill disproportionately at ages 15 and under (). Someone who was 15 years old in the USA in 1955 would have been 40 years old in 1980, if he or she survived. Had this person been obese, this would have been just in time to contribute to the steep increase in obesity trends in the USA. This increase would be cumulative; if this person were to live to the age of 70, he or she would be contributing to the obesity statistics up to 2010.

Americans are clearly eating more, particularly highly palatable industrialized foods whose calorie-to-nutrient ratio is high. Americans are also less physically active. But one of the fundamental reasons for the sharp increase in obesity rates in the USA since the early 1980s is that Americans have been surviving beyond age 40 in significantly greater numbers.

This is due to the success of modern medicine and public health initiatives in dealing with infectious diseases.

PS: It is important to point out that this post is not about the increase in American obesity in general over the years, but rather about the sharp increase in obesity since the early 1980s. A few alternative hypotheses have been proposed in the comments section, of which one seems to have been favored by various readers: a significant increase in consumption of linoleic acid (not to be confused with linolenic acid) since the early 1980s.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Sztuka + kultura = potęga

I am excited to be traveling to Fremantle in Western Australia this November, for the fourth Art of Good Health and Wellbeing, International Arts and Health Conference. When I talk about the value of getting together with strangers and sharing ideas only happening at events like this, it sounds rather cliched, doesn’t it: but the fact is, its true. These events are one-off opportunities to mingle with incredibly diverse groups of people - people with experience and skills way beyond those of mine. I’m naturally quite reserved, and although I do the public speaking bit and thrive on sharing ideas, I sometimes feel that at events like this, I’m an ant in comparison to the doctors who have saved countless lives; the nurses with compassion beyond my capability and the artists - those artists who thrill and impress beyond words. People whose take on life is sometimes forensic, sometimes revolutionary. So yes, in the shadows of some of these amazing individuals, I often go to these events thinking, who am I, some kind of fraud? 

But that’s just it - like those sometimes large, (often small) networking events that I convene in the North West, these conferences offer us all the opportunity to experience the other, the unique and the profound. Rather than feeling like a fish out of water, I reckon those of us going should just embrace the fact that we’re all part of that mix - we all have a part to play in this arts/health field: a field that we’re forming each time we meet. At last years conference in Canberra, my paper exploring attitudes to wellbeing, and the potential of the arts at the end of life, was almost scuppered by my last minute exposure to the Pukamani burial poles that are part of the collection of the National Gallery of Australia. This new and provocative experience for me was in fact, a deep cultural tradition of Aboriginal communities and it was usefully tempered by meeting people involved in the contemporary care of people receiving arts based support as part of their palliative care. Talk about being in at the deep end!  

Preparing for this years conference and my speaking part, I’ve been rifling through all sorts of papers, exploring some ideas behind what drives us to get involved in this sort of work; and judging by the economic climate; what restrains us? The things you stumble upon asking questions, frequently alter the course of your thinking. Last year, working towards a manifesto for arts and health, reading Jonathan Swift exposed me to vicious satire, in the guise of economic solutions to inequalities - then there was the fortuitous stumbling upon the poetry of Julia Darling, reimagining her home town; and the blistering “It is What it Is” curated by Jeremy Deller, redefining my understanding of socially-engaged art. As I type, I’m reading the the most evocative story of early electricity, of small electrified children suspended from 18th Century exhibition hall ceilings; of electric kisses; of mavericks and luminaries (literally)! Science, Art, Culture, Politics and Human Wellbeing - our field of enquiry and practice is emergent and exciting. I’m thrilled to have a part to play in this conversation - around our contribution to 21st Century enlightenment.

I will want your contributions to this years paper too! Although I am preparing to give a presentation, I’ll be asking things of you. Not things to shout out as you throw your rotten fruit at me - I wouldn’t be so foolish - but over the conference I’d like you be thinking about:
  • Where we diverge...where we converge 
  • What are the obstacles tearing us apart 
  • How can we overcome them 
  • What are our untapped assets 
...think of this as a big fat global SWAT chart....our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats laid bare. So please come prepared to share your observations, your experience and your experiments! 

With some of these thoughts in mind, I’ll be working with esteemed colleagues after the event, to magically transform my scribble into something worthy of a journal article. 

So, to conclude these brief thoughts on why I think gatherings of this sort are important, I’d like to share in some small way, just how encountering those Burial Poles and meeting with people far more experienced in the field of end of life care than me, has impacted on me this last year. The first thing is, I’ve revisited the whole area of dementia care, with people in the later stages of the disease. I’ve done that alongside Darren Browett, the designer whose exquisite work I shared at last years conference. Together, we’ve been exploring both the legacy of the earlier work he developed and critically, how it moves forward and gets refined. Working within the NHS and with exemplary Occupational Therapists has enabled us to work closely and in a more embedded way. What we’ve experienced has been small scale and revelatory. I’ll publish a pamphlet on this early in 2013. Parallel to this, I’ve had the opportunity to develop some of those ideas that I set out in last years paper, Towards Sentience and whilst that paper is published as a book chapter early next year, I will be co-curating an exhibition which will be shown in Lithuania and Columbia as well as in Manchester during the period of the Manchester International Festival in July, and which will include some important and iconic contemporary art and will facilitate public debate around attitudes to death, ranging from art as a tool for mitigating difficult conversation - and inevitably the role of artists and designers in discussions around advanced directives and assisted dying. MORTALITY: death and the imagination will run from 8th July to 16th August 2013. Details of the works and speakers will be announced shortly.

So, if you’re coming along to the conference, it will be great to see you and know more about your work and find out how we all connect as part of this ‘small scale global phenomenon’, and perhaps I'll get the chance to share the story of these electrified children too! SHOCKING!

For those of you who have been part of our manifesto work over the last year, part two of this blasting and bombardiering will be wending its way onto the blog over the next few weeks. Here to whet your appetite and to sit alongside the Charter for Arts, Health and Wellbeing (see below), is one of the giant colour posters, courtesy of graphic designer Kamila Kasperowicz. And before you ask: yes it will be available in glorious black and white too - and in a variety of languages! This is just your blurry teaser! ENJOY.

The National Alliance for Arts, Health 
and Wellbeing
I’d also like to let you know about the launch of the new National Alliance for Arts Health and Wellbeing (England). This new body is designed to raise awareness of the impact the arts can have on health and wellbeing, to bring together the work that is happening across the country and to act as a resource for the whole sector.

The Alliance is made up of partners from across the country (a list of these is below), these partners will act as contacts for their region and will also liaise with national organisations working in this area along with government departments, the media and the public. 

The founding principles of the Alliance form a new Charter for Arts Health and Wellbeing. Over the past twelve months, more than 1000 organisations and individuals have collaborated to create this Charter, which has been influenced by the manifesto process, and which summarises why we think the arts have a role to play in health and how we hope the arts will come to be seen as an integral part of the health of individuals, communities and society as a whole. The Charter is available on the website along with a range of links to research, a directory of organisations and resources for the media. This website will form the central resource for the Alliance and will be gradually developed over the year ahead. Do share the Charter and the website with friends and colleagues. 

The Alliance has been developed with funding from Arts Council England and the energy and input of a huge number of people from across the country. It will be Chaired in turn by different regional partners, rotating every six months. The current Chair is Alex Coulter, Director of Arts and Health South West. London Arts in Health Forum is acting as Secretariat to the National Alliance so if you have any queries about the work of the Alliance or about the website, do please contact

In the coming months, we will be running a media campaign to promote the role of the arts in health, supporting the development of Arts and Health South West’s international conference in June next year and working on a range of activity to support those working in this field. In the meantime, we’d like to thank everyone who has helped make the launch possible.

The National Alliance is made up of the following regional partners, each representing a region of England: 

North West, Clive Parkinson, Arts for Health at Manchester Metropolitan University
North East, Mike White, Centre for Medical Humanities, Durham
Yorkshire and the Humber, Deborah Munt, Open Art,Yorkshire
East Midlands, tbc
West Midlands, Kate Gant, Creative Health
East Anglia, Kirsten Heydinrych, Open Arts/Essex & Gavin Clayton, Arts & Minds, Cambridgeshire
South West, Alex Coulter, Arts and Health South West
South East Guy Eades, South East Arts and Health Partnership
London Victoria Hume, London Arts in Health Forum 

The Reader Organisation is proud to announce that it has been commissioned to deliver its unique shared reading model, Get Into Reading, in every Mental Health Trust in the North West of England. 
A commission from the North West Strategic Health Authority will develop partnerships with Cheshire and Wirral NHS Trust, Calderstones Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, Cumbria Partnership Trust, Manchester Mental Health and Social Care Trust, Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust, and Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust. The project will be led by The Reader Organisation, NHS Cheshire, and Warrington and Wigan PCT Cluster. Readers-in-Residence are already established in Mersey Care NHS Trust, Greater Manchester West NHS Trust, and 5 Boroughs Partnership Trust. 

24 sustainable new Get Into Reading groups will be established by 5 new Reader Organisation Project Workers, who will also provide in-house training to allow NHS staff, including psychologists and occupational therapists, to take over group facilitation. The groups take place in community, in-patient and secure settings. 

Poor mental health is especially prevalent in deprived areas, an estimated 40% of which are situated in North West England. According to the North West Equality and Diversity Strategy, 14 of the area’s PCTs are in the 50 worst nationally for health inequality. 1 in 4 people will experience mental health problems during their lifetime, and Get Into Reading provides an non-medical intervention accessible to all. The impacts of Get Into Reading groups include increased personal confidence and reduced social isolation, as well as a sense of stability and support, key factors in preventing mental health problems. Participants also record improved mental, emotional and psychological wellbeing. 

Dr David Fearnley, Medical Director, Mersey Care NHS Trust (RCPsych ‘Psychiatrist of the Year 2009’), says: 

“Get Into Reading is one of the most significant developments to have taken place in mental health practice in the last ten years.”

Sky Arts: Futures Fund 
Deadline: 14 December 2012
Sky Arts’ Futures Fund has now reopened for applications, offering five young artists £30,000 each to fund their work for a full year. The fund is designed to help bridge the gap between formal education and becoming a working artist. The Futures Fund is open to individual artists working in the fields of the performing arts, dance, music and the visual arts. To apply, applicants must be an IdeasTap member aged 18-30 and be based in either the UK or Ireland. It’s free to become an IdeasTap member and just takes a few minutes to sign up. For more information go to the

Wallace & Gromit’s Children’s Foundation (UK)
  • The Wallace & Gromit’s Children’s Foundation has announced that its grants making programme is open for applications. The Foundation supports projects in children’s hospitals and hospices throughout the UK to enrich and enhance the lives of patients. Projects that could be considered by the Foundation include amongst others:
  • Arts, music, play and leisure programmes 
  • Facilities to support families of children treated in hospitals or hospices 
  • Care and facilities in hospices 
  • Supporting children with physical and emotional difficulties 
  • Medical equipment (when it can be shown that funding is not available from statutory sources). 
The closing date for applications is the 7th December 2012. Read more at: 

Coalfields Regeneration Trust's Level 2 Grants (England) 
The Coalfields Regeneration Trust has announced that its Level 2 grant scheme is open to applications. Funding is available to voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations for projects that address key funding themes that respond to the needs of coalfield communities. These are:
  • Access to Employment 
  • Education and Skills 
  • Health and Well Being 
Access to Opportunities which aims to improve access to services in coalfield communities recognising that limited community infrastructure and geographical isolation can prevent people from taking up opportunities. Eligible projects must address one or more of these themes. Grants will be of between £10,000 and £100,000 and can be used towards capital and revenue costs. To access the Coalfields Community Grants Level 2 Application Form applicants will need to initially discuss their project in detail with one of the Trust’s Programme managers. Applications can be made at any time. Read more at:

We’ve had a bit of a week in politics. Our PM gave his rousing closing speech to a packed conference, full of aspiration, enterprise and possibility, and in which he stressed the importance of a rounded education, and his commitment to an emotionally intelligent society (not). I quote:

“...the genuine revolution is underway. The transformation has been astonishing – and the methods have been Conservative. Smart uniforms, teachers in suits. Children taught physics, chemistry and biology not soft options.” 

You can enjoy the full aspirational text by clicking on the homeless man above, who despite his best attempts, has not yet absorbed the privalages available to him. .

Big thanks to Nerissa for her support and John at with advice on the blog.

...and a big thank you for coming here... C.P.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

arte + cultura = potere


This takes your filthy internet addiction to another level! Click on the dirty desk, to learn just how grotesque you really are...

First of all, a little warning - if you come to the blog for the funding updates (which I know are helpful, because a number of you who have benefitted from them), todays sadly has no new funding news! Shocking eh, and potentially the tip of the iceberg? We’ll see. So if you come here for that, I wont waste your time - sign out now. 

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned the new Ben Goldacre book, Bad Pharma, and whilst I’m not going to labour the point, it’s worth looking at some of his responses to critics which are highlighted in this week’s Observer. Positive and negative - here’s a peach to whet your appetite, but click on the photo below for more. (Polemic/Scientist?)

“So, why should I get lathered up about another author writing yet another article as well as a book, which is a misinformed screed against industry? Well, in order to sell his book, Goldacre will appear on radio and TV and spread his views. undoubtably, his message will get heard but the other side of the story wont be aired. This will cause renewed doubts about the biopharmaceutical industry and its products, despite the fact that the propper use of medicine can save lives, improve the quality of life and even save the healthcare system money. The real scandal is that an article like Goldacre’s is accepted as fact.” 
John LaMattina, former president of Pfizer 
(‘The Real Scandal is Not Acknowledging That Drugs Do Work’, 26/09/12)

mmm...selective interpretation perhaps?

Goldacre’s critique of the field, as well as mirroring some of the points I raised in A Brightly Coloured Bell-Jar, makes me revisit firebrand psychiatrist, analyst and writer R.D. Laing, not because he too featured in my paper, but there’s a 90 minute film by Luke Fowler (All Divided Selves) up for the Turner Prize, featuring Laing and his ideas - and (I’m reliably informed) questioning normality, difference and perhaps, power. Now, I admit to writing this before I’ve seen the film, but any work that gets us thinking about psychiatry and what it is to be human, warts and all - and that’s packaged as art - can only help us think through this brief experience of life. I’ll report back in detail after I’ve seen the show. (Scientist/Polemist/Poet?)

I’d like to spend a few moments focusing on our new Secretary of State for Healths’ well-considered thoughts on abortion. Inflammatory, arrogant and ill-considered. END. 
(Informed Policy/Extreme Polemic?) 

With the Obama/Romney election saga unfolding in the US, it might be worth us reminding ourselves of the Republican offer, and I’m very much looking forward to film-maker Nick Broomfield’s new DVD out later this month - Sarah Palin: You Betcha! Mindful of this underrated film-makers portfolio, here is a piece of his early work, in its entirety (17 minutes) and dating back to 1971. 

The film Who Cares, listens to the voices of people in Liverpool who were being rehoused from inner city terraces to suburban high-rise estates. As we hear them describe how the moves have affected them negatively, we see the old terraces being demolished, boarded up houses, and vans taking people's possessions to the new estates. The faceless 'Corporation' of Liverpool (the local authority) has deemed that they must move, and few get any choice where they move to.

To the people of Liverpool 8, the destruction of their housing is the destruction of the security of their social world. A man relates how, as soon as the first people moved out from his street, thieves came to steal the lead from all the roofs. Extended families are separated and housed miles apart. As the terraces are demolished, and the glass is systematically smashed from the windows, children play in the ruins and throw stones at the vacated dwellings.

Who Cares was made 'with the help of' Sir Arthur Elton, co-director (with Edgar Anstey) of Housing Problems (1935), which 35 years earlier promoted rehousing working-class communities in large new estates. Where Elton's film identified urban terraces with dirt, poverty and unhappiness, Broomfield's Liverpudlians mourn the loss of community and closeness the terraces brought, and find themselves unhappy and isolated in their brand new homes. 
(Polemic or Poem?)

Over coffee today, I read a lovely account of the Atlas Moth by Terry Tom Brown, and still with National Poetry Day in mind, I can’t help choosing to interpret it as a piece of poetic prose. Poor old moths - they get the bad deal compared to their garish cousins the butterflies, don’t they? Click on the image below to read this little article. Brown describes the life of the male atlas, whose short and impossibly hungry purpose in life is to find a mate. This essay is less a scientific thesis, but more a meditation on human love. Beautiful. (Science/Poetry?)

Short and sweet this week, but thank you for reading...C.P.