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Obesity in the UK

Obesity in the UK

Finding Effective Solutions For Obesity In The UK

How fat is our nation? The US has one of the highest rates of obesity in the world, but our nation is not the only one suffering from the fast foods and lack of exercise that cause obesity and the surrounding health issues.

A journalist for the UK’s Guardian Newspaper and social affairs correspondent for Channel 4 News, Victoria Macdonald, interview several doctors and politicians to find out the real scope on obesity in the UK.

Obesity In The UK

Obesity is a growing problem in the UK. A government report suggests almost nine in ten adults and two-thirds of children will be obese or overweight by the year 2050, unless we act now.
In one tale of defeat, doctors in a south of England hospital said they had to remove the arms from the chairs in the pediatric unit waiting room because obese children and their obese parents were in danger of becoming stuck every time they sat down.

According to Macdonald one doctor said somewhat despairingly that when he sees the overweight child, accompanied by the overweight mother and the overweight grandmother, he fears that he will make no significant impact on that young person’s health. That they will, in their turn, grow up to be obese and will very likely suffer from the associated health problems, such as diabetes or heart disease.

Trying to warn a whole nation on the dangers of eating is difficult task. “Smoking Kills” is an easy message to get across but “overeating kills” is a little more complex.

“We talk about people being ‘at risk of obesity’ instead of talking about people who eat too much and take too little exercise,” says Tory leader David Cameron.

The general consensus among politicians is to take an approach of libertarian paternalism – otherwise known as Nudge. This political concept states that all individuals should be free to make their own choices, but that sometimes they need the tools to help them make the right choice, in other words, a nudge.

The health secretary, Alan Johnson told a Fabian Society meeting last week that obese people must not be vilified, that lecturing them will not make them change their behavior. Instead, obesity requires all of society to engage, to fight this battle, he said, describing a “broader partnership, not only with families, but with employers, retailers, the leisure industry, the media, local government and the voluntary sector”.

Telling a nation to exercise more and eat five vegetables a day; or telling kids not to eat too much junk will simply not work. Instead, more subtle approaches need to be taken. For example, planning laws should change so there are no fast-food outlets at the school gates; playing fields and sports facilities need to be more accessible and more importantly “everyone, from the smallest community keep-fit class to the biggest retailers in the land” need to join in, Johnson said.

On the day Johnson made his Fabian Society speech, he also announced that several companies including Coca-Cola, Kellogg’s and Nestle, all headed by the Advertising Association, had “pledged” more than £200m towards tackling obesity.

While this may seem like a step in the right direction, the “£200m” claim needs to be treated with a pinch of salt. These very companies often entice the public by way of promotional offers. In one example Cadbury offered a free football net in return for a number of chocolate bar wrappers. So how many chocolate bars would one have to eat to “win” one football net? Only 5,400.

Unless big corporations and food manufacturers get together with the government and put in place a real structure for tackling obesity, the UK’s overweight epidemic may be here to stay.

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