Saturday, 22 August 2009

"Underlying health problems" - a cliche exposed

My concerns over the trite phrase "underlying health problems" (UHPs) being trotted out every time someone dies from swine flu have been borne out. It has become an almost journalistic cliche - no one simply dies of swine flu, they all have "underlying health problems". My suspicion is that people in authority are using this as a way of reassuring the public that swine flu is not dangerous; people can relax - they weren't 'ordinary' people who died from swine flu, they were deeply ill in the first place. Alarm bells rang in particular when the Northern Ireland soldier Lee Porter died from swine flu and it was said he had UHPs. The Belfast Newsletter have interviewed his family who strenuously denied he had UHPs.The 30-year-old had, say his family, no UHPs. The Belfast Newsletter adds that Lee was: "Employed full time for the Northern Ireland Fire Service, he had been involved with the Territorial Army since the age of 18 and had also progressed to the rank of Company Sergeant in the Army Cadet Force." So in fact he was incredibly fit and strong - surely a more important news story that someone of his ilk can be brought down by swine flu than someone with UHPs. Why did/do journalists accept the glib phrase "underlying health problems" so easily. Journalists should be asking what UHPs. For the record, here's the MoD apology. Well done Belefast Telegraph for digging a bit deeper and finding out what the real facts were.

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