Fish & Chips

There are only three things I can tell you about the great British institution that is Fish & Chips. This is what I learnt when I attended the Kings College London inaugural Impact Reception on 14 Jun 2023. It was a unique evening highlighting six specialisations, and featured three presentations by leading academics. The focus was on “doing some good in the world” and we explored:

Global Affairs
Education for Displaced Persons
Women’s Leadership

And three niche areas of medicine where KCL excels:

Simulation and Interactive Learning
Virtual Reality Research Lab
Surgical & Interventional Engineering Lab

I have never been in a room so full of intelligent people doing good! Later in the evening, when I was chatting with Professor Richard Trembath (Health & Life Sciences) the discussion naturally turned to Fish & Chips.

traditional fish and chips in a takeaway container

Fact One

Until the advent of the Chinese Takeaway (at some point in the 1970s) the only enduring fast food outlet was the local Fish & Chip Shop. McDonalds did not arrive in my corner of the UK until 1980, and I do not recall ever having a pizza until one day in London in 1982 when I discovered that there are Pizza Restaurants in London. The same thing goes for kebabs. In London, in 1982, I found a kebab shop (a kebab van to be more accurate). I had never seen one before! Hence the humble Fish & Chip Shop was the standard which all UK kids encountered if they grew up before 1980.

Fact Two

Fish & chips are generally doused in vinegar and smothered in salt. That was standard practice in the 1970s before the government was pressured to legislate about salt and sugar intake. I spent most of my childhood in the Sixties and Seventies eating anything I felt like, regardless of the salt and the sugar content. And I was slim! We were all slim (except for, roughly speaking, one kid in every class). So what happened? Why is the population now so overweight and why is Type 2 Diabetes so prevalent?

Fact Three

In 1970 the overweight/obese proportion of the UK population was about 15%. It is now 64%. Type 2 diabetes more than doubled in British men between the 1970s and the 1990s and it continues to increase. There is a reason for this and it’s not caused by fish & chips. Fish is a natural food, it turns up in your traditional Fish & Chip Shop in its natural, raw state. So do the potatoes. With a focus on “being a miser with time, and being a miser with money” your local chippie will do the minimum preparation necessary to make some batter, slice some chips, fry it all and quickly get it into your hands in exchange for payment. A minimum of fuss and processing. That’s not the case with modern fast food.

Consider . . .

How many calories and additives are there in your traditional fish & chips? And in your Big Mac and large fries?

Moreover, having a take away meal was a rare treat in the 1970s, and the choice was simply between fish & chips and Chinese. Nowadays, vast swathes of the population will gorge processed food as often as they like . . . several times per week! Processed food is the culprit, that’s why the nation is so overweight. Legislation on sugar and salt content does not address the root cause of the problem . . .  it’s processed food! And Giles Yeo will tell you more if you care to read his book Why Calories don’t Count.

Nowadays fast food outlets are everywhere, and cycle couriers will do the leg work for you so that you can just sit there and sloth. Poorer people tend to spend a disproportionate amount of their income on cheap fast food. According to Tedstone one third of the country’s fast food outlets are in the most deprived areas of our towns and cities. If you’re in London go and walk around Chelsea, and then walk around Lewisham. Try it in your own home town, walk around the upmarket neighbourhood, and the downmarket one. How common are the cheap fast food places?

What are you doing to ensure that you get some authentic real food on a daily basis, and avoid the gloop?

Where is the emphasis on values in Healthcare?

Aspiring students of medicine, trying to get into the UK’s best universities, will tell you that the main message they need to emphasise (and highlight in their application) is a genuine desire to care for people.

Healthcare is such an important issue, that we might imagine that all healthcare providers place a great deal on emphasis on worthy values. Selling your healthcare data to big corporations is probably not one of them. Honesty, fairness, and compassion probably rate highly on anybody’s list of values.

This subject came to the fore at a HealthTech meetup run by Palta on 6 Jun 2023. Lina Zakarauskaite from Stride VC stressed that values are the key to any HealthTech Start Up and that they need not be “written in stone” on day one. The founders will want to adapt their own values and the values of their fledgling business, so that (with input from others) a statement of values can be established soon after the founding date. By starting with a white board and an open mind, the key is to consider all inputs and achieve a reasonable consensus on what the business values should be. It’s not a unanimous vote, nor really a majority vote, it’s a team effort where the team agrees a set of values that they call all subscribe to. Google learnt this in the early days when their executive coach emphasised that you agree what is good for team, and you do what is good for the team, even if that was not your personal first choice.

Kit Logan from Avie (an exercise app which is now a part of the Holland & Barrett empire) added that early adopters are just as important as the founders’ team in shaping what the company values should be. Instead of having a fitness app which chastises you for missing a week of exercise (because you were ill or on holiday), the app needs to understand that users often have good reason for not following a regular routine. In discussion with early adopters of Avie, the founders, Kit and Charlie discovered from the users that their app was “understandable” and that this was a value which they needed to add to the Avie mission statement. They also learnt that exercise routines have to fit around other activities, notably “hair washing”. A significant percentage of users stressed that the competitor apps neglected the importance of fitting schedules around the more important activity of “washing your hair”.

Finding your niche was also important. Moving on from working as the CEO of a dating agency, Michelle Kennedy (the founder of Peanut) discovered an opening for a social network for would-be mums, expectant mums, young mums, and later mums with medical issues. Even ladies without children, who wanted to share concerns with like minded people, on issues like HRT and the menopause.

The discussion of values in Healthcare was central to the HealthTech meetup, and it ought to be equally important in any business. Even to employees, and certainly to candidates looking for a job. What values do you have? What values does the organisation have? Are they aligned? Working relationships can be very short lived when values are mismatched. Try writing down your top 5 values. What are they? Use the list here if you’re really struggling.

Anyone, in any position, in any organisation, should examine the values and then ask themselves “do I want to work on these challenges, with this team, within this organisation?”