8 Jul 2010

Obesity: focus needs to be on income inequalities

burger.jpgGloucestershire is producing it's obesity strategy - it has just released one of it's action cards on the subject - see here. However in my view the emphasis is not in the right place.

The problem as noted by the Equality Trust: "Obesity is increasing rapidly throughout the developed world. In some countries rates have doubled in just a few years. In the USA, three-quarters of the population are overweight, and close to a third are obese. In the UK, two-thirds of adults are overweight and more than a fifth are obese. Obesity increases the risk of hypertension, late onset diabetes, cardiovascular disease, gallbladder disease, and some cancers. The trends in children's obesity are likely to lead to shorter life expectancies for today's children - this would be the first reversal in life expectancy since the nineteenth century.

"We found that obesity among men and women (see graph), as well as calorie intake and deaths from diabetes, are related to income inequality in rich countries. In addition, obesity in adults is also related to inequality in the 50 US states; and the percentage of children who are overweight is related to inequality both internationally and in the USA."

Therefore one of the key actions would be to focus on income inequalities - this could have a much bigger impact on obesity and a massive cost saving. Clearly locally we have less of an impact regarding income inequalities but there are measures that could be taken.

Of course there is much else that can be done like the banning of food adverts - an issue I raised long ago - see for example here and here - the ban on tobacco advertising had a marked effect on people, however it seems that the lobby from the food industry is still dictating policy to the government. Another area of action is school and hospital meals - we are still failing badly in these areas.

"Not on the Label" (2004) by Felicity Lawrence noted that scientists have suggested that the UK food industry spends £20 billion each year on the staggering 6 to 7kg (13-15lbs) of chemical additives we each eat! See more also re industrial pollutants on previous blog here.

As I said back then in that letter, it seems that the Government accepts no responsibility for the worsening obesity crisis and is intent on blaming individuals for the epidemic. It is simply wrong to suggest that individuals are solely responsible for reducing levels of exercise when it is government that is promoting car based transport at the expense of cycling and walking.

Now with the ground-breaking research of the Equality Trust we can see that income inequalities play a significant role in obesity.

See more at: http://www.equalitytrust.org.uk/

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