Thursday 5 March 2015

Editorial: Minister sensible to 
be cautious on health

Published 05/08/2014 | 02:30

Health Minister Leo Varadkar has signalled a more measured approach to the introduction of Universal Health Insurance (UHI)
Health Minister Leo Varadkar has signalled a more measured approach to the introduction of Universal Health Insurance (UHI)
Research in Britain says that young people who spend less than an hour a day engaged in video games are often better adjusted than those who did not play such games at all

Health Minister Leo Varadkar has signalled a more measured approach to the introduction of Universal Health Insurance (UHI).

Writing in today's paper the minister has sounded a note of caution about the timetable for major changes. "Maybe it might take a bit longer than originally planned, but it's going to happen," he said.

It is wise of the minister to tread more carefully and a little more slowly than his predecessor. There is a lot of planning in such a major change in the delivery of healthcare in Ireland and there are a lot of interest groups - with entrenched views - which need to be convinced before such changes take place. Mr Varadkar might be accused of putting it on the long finger, but it is a sensible course given the sheer costs involved in UHI and the still fragile state of the Irish economy.

More heartening for those users of the health service is Mr Varadkar's contention that negotiating "a realistic and adequate budget for health in 2015" is his top priority.

Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Brendan Howlin has already admitted that health spending has remained flat over the past number of years. So the new minister seems assured that 2015 will bring no further cuts.

Mr Varadkar may be exaggerating when he says that "99pc of the time things go right" in health, but it is certainly an aspiration worth starting with, so that we will no longer have a minister who regards his own department as a basket case, as his predecessors did.

Video games and the need for moderation

Moderation in all things, as your old granny used to say. And perhaps she was right, even if her advice was often ignored.

Now research in Britain tells us that young people who spend less than an hour a day engaged in video games are often better adjusted than those who did not play such games at all. Research, of course, delights in uncovering such anomalies. Many people have - of course - lived long and fruitful lives without ever going near a video game.

But like a lot of elements in our modern world such games are here to stay. Far-fetched as this research may seem at first glance, it was conducted by a research psychologist and involved surveying over 5,000 young people between the ages of 10 and 15.

For many parents it will be heartening to learn that children - and maybe even adults - who play just one hour a day are likely to have fewer problems with emotional issues and lower levels of hyperactivity than people who don't indulge in this pastime at all.

However, the results also indicated that the least well-adjusted people in the survey were teenagers who spent more than three hours a day in front of a screen playing video games.

So it seems the granny was right and moderation is the solution.

Of course, the real problem for parents is not their children spending an hour a day playing video games. It is dragging them back into the real world after an hour and not allowing them to spend their entire lives closeted in the bedroom staring at a screen, zapping aliens like there was no tomorrow.

Irish Independent

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