Wednesday, September 20, 2006

What you can look like at 41

In yesterday's Globe and Mail there was an interview with designer and actress Sadie Frost concerning her recent nude anti-fur poster for PETA, which also appeared in the paper. (I can't find it in the on-line G&M but an article at the PETA -- People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals -- UK site shows the poster.)

The Globe article in the paper quotes Frost, who has been a looker all her life and no doubt holds herself to a high standard, as referring to her age of 41 and her four children, and saying about the picture, "Hopefully people won't be too repulsed by it."

Not much chance of that.

I thought a lot about this picture, because I think Frost, beautiful as she is, is no genetic freak. Nor has she been raised in extraordinary luxury, as far as I can tell. (She would insist I mention she's a life-long vegetarian.) I have concluded that this shows what a woman can look like at this stage of life if she hasn't been working the whole time in a rice paddy or a textile factory, or rotting in a refugee camp. And face it, if there are a lot of people in bad circumstances, there are millions who have lived, by historical standards, very healthy lives.

And it's not just a matter of wealth or living in an "advanced" society. In April 2005 I was in Delhi for a week, and most of the people on the street looked quite healthy to me -- in part because they weren't carrying the extra weight so many in North America now do. It was quite a revelation.

This summer, in a New York Times article I haven't been able to find again, there was a detailed discussion on historical medical research that suggests that good fetal health and good health in the first two years of life makes all the difference -- delaying degenerative diseases that used to be common in what we would now consider young adulthood for decades.

I've often thought that effective, and often very simple and relatively cheap public health measures are the best investment a society can make. We can afford, as a world society, lots more than we do now. It would make a world of difference. It already has.


Blogger Phil Paine said...

I think future historians will look upon the late 19th Century as a critical juncture in human history, not for the usual political or economic reasons, but because it was then that the lives of the average human being began to be transformed by public health measures. People like Dr. John Snow, who discovered the link between water delivery systems and cholera, and who fought heroicly against established powers to institute the necessary legal and technological solutions, will someday be regarded as the true giants of history.

2:10 AM  

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