Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The war on Obesity ?

We've got a tragic and growing problem with obesity in this country.

We're not so much climbing the league table as taking the lift to the top. England is fourth in the world, with Scotland in second place, behind the U.S.

According to a report for the Scottish Assembly, obesity among adults has increased by almost half since 1995. It says, "These figures provide little evidence that current approaches to obesity are having any impact".


Meanwhile, the costs are becoming increasing obvious. Not only are many years of healthy life being lost, but we're spending a fortune on treating the many diseases caused by obesity and lack of excercise. The Standard reports today, "the direct cost of obesity and related illnesses to the NHS is £4.3 billion a year". In the increasingly desparate search for a solution, more surgery is being proposed.

But why not address the cause than try to fix the symptoms? It's significant that sedentary lifestyles, along with poor diet, are being blamed for obesity. We're using our cars more, walking and cycling less, but eating the same calorie-rich meals. The problem is too much petrol and too many pies. Yet successive governments still don't understand that if they made cycling safer, more people would cycle, and the cost of safe cycling infrastructure would likely be outweighed by benefits elsewhere, including a slimming-down of that £4.3bn that obesity is costing us.
Fat chance of that because it would be transport investment, not health. Unlike the NHS, transport is not protected from cuts, and anything that encourages people to get out of their cars would be war on the motorist. Real wars kill people. Right now, motorists are killing themselves in ever-increasing numbers through failing to take enough excercise.

How long before the Government realises it needs to cut NHS spending on obesity, not increase it? It can do that by persuading people to walk and cycle more. Instead of which, it's making driving relatively more attractive by increasing public transport fares, making the roads more dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians by removing speed cameras and failing to invest in safe cycling infrastructure.

But it's OK folks! Health Minister Paul Burstow to the rescue! Healthier lifestyles was an “ambition” for the Government, he claims. “As part of the Change4Life movement, we are encouraging people to make simple changes, such as eating more fruit and veg, cutting down on fatty foods and being more active.” (Sounds like the same policies that failed so dismally under the last Government.) “Our public health white paper later this year will set out plans to help people lead healthier lifestyles in more detail."

I can't wait.

1 comment:

  1. I thought Australia had recently climbed to the top of the fattest nations list? Helped in part by the mandatory helmet law which effectively killed off cycling there.