The above just might be my favourite Evening Standard headline ever. I saw it on my way to teach a class last night, I didn’t pick up a paper as the headline said it all really.
In 2007, the Foresight report Tackling Obesities: Future Choices made the following observation:
Although personal responsibility plays a crucial part in weight gain, human biology is being overwhelmed by the effects of today’s ‘obesogenic’ environment, with its abundance of energy dense food, motorised transport and sedentary lifestyles. As a result, the people of the UK are inexorably becoming heavier simply by living in the Britain of today. This process has been coined ‘passive obesity’. Some members of the population, including the most disadvantaged, are especially vulnerable to the conditions.
Yesterday, the government published ‘Healthy Lives, Healthy People: A call to action on obesity in England’. This basically rips up the Foresight report that was released under the previous government, and places the emphasis squarely on personal responsibility. A statement from the Department of the Bleeding Obvious Health said “Being overweight or obese is a direct consequence of eating more calories than we need”.
Basically the upshot of the strategy is that the government will not be introducing any new regulation such as the fat tax just introduced in Denmark, or a restriction on the use of trans fats. Health Secretary Andrew Lansley continues to favour the voluntary approach and his precious responsibility deal, which he claims produces faster results.
Many communities in Britain are undergoing a time of extreme deprivation. Jobs are being lost and people can’t rely on benefits as a fallback position as they are being cut too. It’s all very well that big business is on-side but poor families can’t afford to shop at Sainsbury’s or M&S. They’ll be getting their £2 combo from the local chicken shop and stocking up on basics from the corner shop – shops that haven’t signed up to the responsibility deal.
But no, it’s your fault you’re fat. Thanks for clearing that up, Mr Lansley. Step away from that cheeseburger, people! And join a gym. Membership to my local Virgin Active is only £79 a month.*
* Special staff and student deal, City University. Sorry if you get quoted more…