Posted by on November 16, 2019 3:51 pm
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IEA publishes “Nanny State on Tour”

Courtesy of IEA



In order to justify these interventions, the report reveals how organisations have been changing definitions to include nanny state objectives. The World Health Organisation (WHO) – the organisation through which a third of Britain’s funding for lifestyle interventions abroad is spent – regularly describes obesity and tobacco use as ‘epidemics’ despite neither fitting the dictionary definition of ‘epidemic’ which requires the disease to be contagious.Over £600,000 of British taxpayers’ money was used to fund a programme tackling ‘malnutrition’ in Indian children, much of which was spent tackling childhood obesity in India because WHO has defined malnutrition as ‘deficiencies, excesses, or imbalances’ in diet.


The report also analyses the cost-effectiveness of nanny-state interventions abroad and finds the foreign aid budget would have a more significant impact on life expectancy and quality of life if it was spent on more conventional programmes. Examples in the paper include:


  • £5.3 million spent tightening anti-tobacco laws in five African nations. This could have paid for 3 million insecticide-based bed nets to prevent malaria – a disease which, in 2017, infected 201 million people worldwide and was attributable to 404,500 deaths


  • £599,065 spent on an anti-smoking intervention in India. This could have delivered 3,700 HPV vaccinations to Indian girls, reducing their lifetime risk of cervical cancer



Mark Tovey, author of the Nanny State on Tour, said: “The British government is generous in its foreign aid spending and the public are broadly supportive, but anti-obesity drives and stop smoking campaigns do not fit in with the common conception of aid spending, which includes feeding the hungry and tackling infectious diseases. In the world’s most impoverished countries, a small amount of money can have an enormous impact. Misallocating UK aid money on expansive, nanny-state projects instead of targeted and effective programmes costs lives.” 


Christopher Snowdon, Head of Lifestyle Economics at the Institute of Economic Affairs, said: “It is well known that the foreign aid budget has been misused in the past. This report shows that nanny state activists and academics have been diverting millions of pounds towards their pet projects under the guide of international development. Foreign aid money is supposed to help the poorest people in the world, not to feather the nest of wealthy academics.” 


The full report is available here.