“Pekka Puska was born in Vaasa, northern Finland, in 1945. He was director of the North Karelia Project in eastern Finland from 1972 to 1997. Between 2001 and 2003 he was director of the department of non-communicable disease prevention at the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland. He has a PhD in epidemiology and has published more than 400 scientific papers. He has also served as a member of the Finnish parliament. He is married with two young children.”
Pelle Neroth interviews Puska in New Scientist:
Did all this effort pay off?
Between 1972 and 1997, when the North Karelia project ended, the number of deaths from coronary heart disease dropped by 82 per cent. Life expectancy among men went up eight years, from 65 to 73. Blood cholesterol in the population dropped 20 per cent. It was like putting the whole population on cholesterol-reducing drugs. The consumption of fruit and vegetables went from the lowest in Europe to the highest in northern Europe. In 1972, 90 per cent of the population put butter on their bread; now only 7 per cent do. Salt consumption halved. Smoking went down drastically among men, though it increased among women. In Finland as a whole, between 1969 and 2002 deaths from chronic heart disease dropped by 76 per cent among men aged 35 to 64. People used to come up to me and shake my hand and say, “Thank you Dr Puska, you have saved my life.” It amused me. Perhaps health experts are the modern priests.