Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Government drive to cut obesity

Department calls for action on obesity

England has one of the highest rates of obesity in Europe, with more than 60% of adults and a third of 10 and 11 year olds overweight or obese.  National Child measurement programme
Obesity, which is a major risk factor for diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cancer and heart disease, costs the NHS £5bn each year, and costs the wider economy billions more. 

Should government be doing anything about obesity?  What should it do?   In 2007, the Labour government produced Foresight Tackling Obesities: Future Choices Project report (PDF)

Andrew Landsley says:

The Government is committed to giving a lead in
our efforts to prevent and reduce excess weight.
We look to the full range of partners at national
and local level to encourage and support
individuals to eat a healthy diet and become
more physically active. And we ask the public
to work with us by taking responsibility for their
own lifestyle choices.  See:  Healthy Lives, Healthy People. A call to action on obesity in England, 13 October 2011. (PDF)
Labour created 'Change for Life'  (Change For Life Website ).  The new Conservative/Lib Dem government has chosen to continue with this scheme.  (Change For Life 3 year marketing strategy (PDF)

To me, this seems like a lot of bureaucracy and meddling.  It isn't that difficult.  There are things I would do. 
Make sure there are good houses.  The right kind of houses.  Detached houses with big gardens.  And make sure there are green spaces within a walking distance of every house. 
There should be space to grow your own vegetables - which is another reason why new homes need to have large gardens.  Making space for allotments will also mean people are more likely to eat healthily.
Make sure the new planning system doesn't lead to building on areas used to exercise, like parks and playing fields.
More time allocated to exercise in schools
More intensive work outs in schools such as long distance running and exercise bikes.  Often, a lot of kids just stand about during games and PE.
The knowledge that the government is taking responsibility for your health, is going to lead to unhealthiness.  It would be better if the government would be seen to be doing nothing.  That way people would take responsibility for their health. 
So, abolish Change 4 life.  Save the money and plow it into improving sports facilities in schools.   Make sure every schools has a playing field next door.  Make sure every school has a sports hall filled with exercise equipment so that kids have continuous exercise.  You do not need a great design.  Just have one design and apply it to all schools.  So, a sports hall that has 2 stories.  Downstairs, just a regular sports hall.  Upstairs it would be filled with gym equipment and workout areas.  Intensive prolonged exercise on exercise bikes or doing aerobics will have the weight falling off.
Tennis courts would also be a good addition.
Another thing you could do is to make sure there are more than just 1st and 2nd teams in football, rugby and cricket.  Make sure all kids are involved in competitions against other schools by creating 3rd,4th and 5th teams.
I would also make sure every school has cookery on the curriculum.  There should facilities in every school to teach cookery.
You may need to create space to accommodate these things.  If this means compulsory purchase orders on houses to make way for new buildings I would do it.   If these means changing the roads network around the school, I would do it.  This may be expensive but if you get the foundations right you will save a lot of money in the future.  A lot of schools just don't have good sports facilities nor devote enough time to exercise.

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