Tuesday 11th October 2016 marked World Obesity Day. It was a day to take stock and assess the situation we are currently in, where 29% of adults and 15% of children in Scotland are obese and to look at the vision of universal healthy lifestyles and consider: how can we get there?
With adult obesity rates at unacceptable levels and a growing gap in obesity related to inequalities, we must be serious about how we tackle the obesity crisis.
We fully welcome the Soft Drinks Industry Levy (sugar tax), but this will only prove its full worth if it is part of a suite of measures designed to tackle obesity, rather than a stand-alone initiative.
While each individual makes certain choices, the ready availability and prevalence of junk food, processed food and takeaways, combined with the lack of availability of affordable fresh and healthy food, especially in socially deprived areas, is a major factor in creating an obesogenic environment – one where it becomes extremely difficult to eat a healthy diet.
Such environments are compounded with price promotions on cheap, often sugar-filled, junk food, outdoor, televisual, radio and online advertising targeting children and parents with ‘mouth-watering’ images of foods high in salt, sugar and fat.
Without the vast sums of money behind it, fruit, vegetables and healthy food have little chance of being seen or heard. It is little wonder, then, that many people growing up in such environments have little skill, knowledge or confidence in creating fresh, healthy food at home.
To tackle our obesogenic environments and support the ‘sugar tax’, we urge the Scottish and UK governments to:
• Fully implement the Soft Drinks Industry Levy (SDIL)
• Take action to tackle price promotions of junk food and sugary drinks
• Restrict advertising of junk food and sugary drinks to children
• Introduce regulation to control portion sizes
• Ensure industry significantly reduces the sugar and fat content of foods
If we don’t act with conviction and with a clear goal to reduce obesity across the UK and Scotland we will be facing the same problems in 10 years. Only the financial impact will have increased and many more lives will have been affected by obesity.
But, if we do act, many more people will be living happier, healthier lives, the economic strain on the NHS will be reduced and we all know that healthy bodies and healthy minds make for a more prosperous society in every sense of the word.
So, on World Obesity Day, let’s choose the positive pathway. Let’s actually achieve the vision of universal healthy lifestyles, rather than just talk about it.