Skip to main content Skip to footer
Post header Skip post header

Johnian magazine issue 47, spring 2021

Letters – what you’re saying

2 min read

Healthspan in decline

In response to Nigel Crisp’s article in Johnian issue 46.

One of the joys of the biannual arrival of Johnian is hearing from public figures whose Johnian credentials had been unknown to me. One such has been Nigel Crisp, whose contribution shows that the good sense given him by his time at St John’s has stayed with him, despite his eminent position in the NHS.

Nigel emphasises the importance of the individual in determining the health of society.

As he says, we need politicians who will provide the conditions in which people can be healthy and then encourage them to make the best use of those conditions.

Even before COVID-19, the health of the nation has been deteriorating.

Lifespan, which had steadily increased over the past few decades, has recently hit the buffers and is now in decline. More seriously healthspan, the period of life during which we are fit and healthy, has declined disproportionately.

The average UK citizen can now expect to spend the last 20% of his or her life with some sort of disability or chronic illness. The main culprits have been too much food and too little exercise, leading to obesity and the host of non communicable diseases that plague us during our autumn years.

With Lockdown easing, our politicians have an ideal opportunity to promote better eating and increased physical activity and help their constituents improve their own health. Let us hope that the government still consults Nigel Crisp.
Hugh Bethell (1960)

Chris’s charm

In response to The Eagle 2020

As the years pass, I notice two things. First, that each College annual seems to follow ever quicker on the previous; and second, that as my time at St John’s recedes further into hazy memory, The Eagle somehow brings it back with ever more clarity.

The obituaries of Christopher Dobson captured movingly his warmth and kindness – and brought to mind the occasion when I had the pleasure of meeting him, briefly, at a reception in the Master’s Lodge some years ago.

Perhaps I was looking rather lost; in any case, I recall he went out of his way to welcome me and ask about my connection to the College.

It was only towards the end of our conversation that I had the opportunity to ask him the same question, and he was obliged to tell me, with rather charming diffidence, that he was in fact the Master.
Edward Genochio (1996)

Express your thoughts on this issue, tell us about your latest projects or
share anything else the Johnian community may like to know about.
You can email your letters to with the subject
‘Johnian letter’. Letters may be edited for length and are published at the
discretion of the Editor.