Balancing the risks

Councils should ‘stop shaping all policies based on counting COVID cases and need to start balancing risks across a broader spectrum’, writes Claire Fox in the Municipal Journal

It’s the first anniversary of my mother’s death. She died last October, aged 92. I spent hours with her the day before she died, in a nursing home in North Wales. She was very weak. I held her hand, talking to her incessantly, re-telling those favourite, much-repeated funny anecdotes from our family history. She couldn’t speak, but would squeeze my hand, smiling at key moments.

At one point, she struggled to sit up and leaned forward: she smoothed my ruffled hair and pulled at my creased shirt – an old habit of reprimand, because she always thought I looked scruffy. She was smartening me up. I was astonished at this gesture of agency, but delighted to recognise that familiar, affectionate tut-tut look. This was my Mum in her final hours, emphasising that she was still there and in charge. With stupendous effort – even at the end of life – she was declaring: ‘I am still able to assert this little bit of control and authority.’

I tell this story now because, midCOVID, it can be easy to forget that there is more to life than the physical reality of breathing. The person still counts and battles to be themselves to the last.

Long before COVID, but especially apparent during this crisis, too many local authority public health professionals seem to view everything through the prism of health as the core value, longevity – at all costs – as the point of life. This can distort the priorities for living. Much of what is life enhancing can be a risk to health, whether playing rugby, driving

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