Sunday, April 27, 2008

My second trip to Brussels this week. I was with my colleagues Christian Haerpfer and Alexander Chorostov to begin negotiations with the European commission on our new FP7 project, Health in Times of Transition: Trends in Population Health and Health Policies in CIS Countries. This is a follow-up to our earlier project entitled Lifestyles Living Standards and Health. In it, we conducted household surveys in eight former Soviet countries, providing important new information on topics such as tobacco and alcohol consumption, access to safe water, and use of health services. In the new study, we will be expanding the household surveys to 11 countries, covering the entire Commonwealth of Independent States with the exception of Turkmenistan. We will also be undertaking a number of community profiles to understand better the circumstances in which people live, in particular their access to different forms of food, the extent and nature of tobacco marketing, and their access to healthcare. We are hoping that the project will begin in November 2008 with the first survey data being collected in early 2010.

Footnote: I read that the UK government is planning to introduce a new
facial recognition system “to reduce delays at immigration in British airports”. This news simply confirms to me that the Home Office is viewed as an incredibly soft target by anyone with a computerised gizmo that no-one else is stupid enough to buy. When it was introduced, I enrolled in the IRIS system, which was a complete waste of time. The system is frequently out of order and, even when it is working, it is so slow that it is quicker to use the ordinary queue. I was reading about the new system as I was getting on the Eurostar at Brussels, where one must show one’s passport to Belgian officials and then again, about 10m further on, repeat the entire process with the British (only more slowly as it is clear that their computers are creaking under the weight of data from the new biometric passports. If the government really is interested in reducing queues at immigration, there is an obvious solution. Join the Schengen Agreement like the rest of Europe!

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