Is the Government taking the right approach to tackle Britain’s growing obesity problem – Conservative Article
Quite recently, Boris has decided to roll out a ‘Tackling Obesity’ plan. Over 63% of adults living in the UK are overweight and up to 30% are obese. Recently, it has also been proven that obese adults are more likely to be admitted to the hospital after contracting COVID-19. Moreover, in 2018/2019, there have been 900 000 hospital admissions due to obesity-related conditions. The need to tackle the issue is clear. But is the government doing this right?
Part of the program is removing TV adverts promoting fast food, as well as banning certain promotions, such as ‘buy 1 get 1 free’ on foods high in fat, sugar, or salt. We will also be able to see the caloric content on the menus and on alcohol.
I believe that the idea is correct – it’s the execution that is lacking.
First of all, I’m not entirely sure if it should be the government tackling this problem. The ability to lose weight relates closely to personal responsibility – it’s hard to force it on people who have never learned it. Losing weight requires discipline and this is something that’s often instilled by one’s parents. If the government is encroaching on this territory, it may not necessarily be in people’s best interest as this type of behaviour will penalise people who eat in moderation. One thing that the government can assist with is ensuring that children are taught the nutritional value of various foods and money management in school.
Even when looking at this from the psychological perspective, the focus should be on promoting healthy eating and exercise and increasing promotional offers on fruit and veg, not removing fast-food adverts from the TV.
I believe that it should be charities that offer more support regarding this issue, not the government. They could focus on wider incentives that offer concrete help to people who may not be able to afford to eat healthier. Often, people who choose fast food, don’t know how to cook, how to manage their money, or how to lose weight. If charities would offer proper help directed specifically at people who are looking for help, the resources can be focused on assisting these people, helping them to make the correct grocery choices, teach them meal prep to save time, and how to manage money to still be able to eat healthily.
Another issue I have with the new scheme is the plan to introduce the calorie count on the menus. A lot of people happily ignore the calorie count, unless they are actively trying to lose weight. But there could be potentially damaging consequences. People with eating disorders will fixate on the calorie intake, which may lead to them relapsing into anorexia or bulimia.
Similarly, I don’t believe in the effectiveness of banning fast-food TV adverts. I find this notion slightly authoritarian. Should it really be the government deciding what is good for us? If we are to focus on reviving the economy, shouldn’t we put the obesity issue on the back burner and focus on boosting spending? On one side, we have Rishi Sunak’s Eat Out to Help Out, on the other side we have Boris banning fast food adverts. Did the government even think it through?
There are positive elements of this scheme too. For example, I believe that ensuring that there are more healthy foods as part of the ‘Buy one get one free’ promotions will improve the overall health of the nation. There are also bicycle initiatives offering repair vouchers to bike owners which will encourage people to choose healthier travelling options – at the same time contributing to saving the environment. I think that the issue itself requires tackling and the scheme is the right choice. I’m just not sure if the government is doing it right. Will this plan end in a fiasco? This depends on how seriously people in our country are treating their health.
Written by Junior Conservative Writer, Dinah Kolka
Point of Information
It’s the government’s responsibility to tackle obesity – A Liberal Response
On the face of it, I agree with Dinah’s argument. Obesity is a systemic issue that needs addressing. Boris’s ‘Tackling Obesity’ plan is a step in the right direction, but its execution is flawed. From contradictory dietary schemes to ineffective calorie counts, the proposed changes are superficial at best and don’t get to the heart of the problem.
However, when I dig deeper into Dinah’s article, I find myself disagreeing with her. She questions whether the government should be tackling this problem as weight relates closely to personal responsibility. Instead, she proposes charities should step up to the mark. I fundamentally disagree.
To place blame on the individual, their upbringing and their parents is trivial. It undervalues the strong and direct connection between deprivation and obesity. People can only make choices from what is available to them. And, for many battling weight issues, these choices are limited. Gyms aren’t cheap. Areas for free outdoor exercise can often be unsafe. Healthy food is expensive. If you rely on food banks your choices are minimal. And, before you start shouting about Joe Wickes, you can only work out to free online videos if you have the internet and the space to do so – many have neither.
I’m not denying that some responsibility lies with the individual. But, to preach about exercise and a healthy diet to someone living in poverty is the equivalent of prescribing them a drug they cannot get on the NHS. It is ineffective.
Yes, charities can offer support to those who actively seek it, take Mind for example. But their effects are limited overall. For the obesity crisis to be comprehensively tackled, the government must take the lead. The public needs government-funded resources including meal programs in schools, free fitness programs and accessible clinics for common illnesses like diabetes.
A move towards charitable responsibility in health is worrying. It could signal a wider mindset that health is something the government is not interested in. It’s the opposite of both everything the NHS stands for. And, the “all in it together” mentality of the past few months.
It’s the government’s responsibility to tackle obesity.
Written by Guest Liberal Writer, Libby Gilbert
The obesity problem is an austerity problem – A Labour Response
The latest in a long line of ineffective health initiatives, Boris Johnson’s anti-obesity scheme is half-baked and unlikely to induce any real change. After being drained by years of Tory austerity. Britain needs a bespoke, truly radical proposal to solve the obesity problem. Not a handful of half-decent ideas that sound fresh out of a last-minute brainstorming session.
As Libby pointed out, access to a healthy diet and regular exercise is a privilege afforded to increasingly fewer Britons, especially those who live in urban areas. In terms of working hours, the old-fashioned 9 to 5 is a thing of the past, as Brits work the longest hours in Europe, leaving little time for chopping carrots or a 5k run.
In a depressing cycle of stagnation, people living in some of the most deprived areas of the country watch as big fast-food chains set up shop in their communities. Whereas, affordable supermarkets often remain miles away.
This leads to what is called a ‘food desert’, or ‘food swamp’. Where a combination of poor public transport and a lack of access to cheap, healthy food makes obesity far more prevalent. A 2018 report by the Guardian found that over a million UK residents live in these ‘food deserts’, something likely to be exacerbated by the economic crisis.
This is why I find issue with Dinah’s view that charities should step in to clean the government’s dirty laundry. Or that losing weight is simply a matter of “personal responsibility”.
The obesity crisis, and it is an increasingly dangerous crisis. It is fundamentally a product of austerity-enabled poverty and a negligent governmental attitude towards public health. These latest measures are woefully inadequate. Years of Conservative rule have devastated this country, and the cracks are beginning to show.
By Senior Labour Writer, Max Ingleby