In 2017, Scotland’s young people suffer from obesity more than any generation before them. Dr Anna Strachan, Policy Officer for Obesity Action Scotland, calls for urgent action to make the healthy choice the easy choice.
Today marks the start of National Obesity Awareness Week. Organisations and companies from across the UK are coming together to invite everyone to ‘Do something good for JanUary’ . Whether it’s cooking more healthily, avoiding snacks or being a little more physically active, the aim is to make a healthy New Year’s resolution now!
And there are plenty of reasons for us to make resolutions. Children and young people in Scotland suffer obesity more than any generation before them. It’s not only about being heavy and looking big. It’s also about stigma and related emotional and behavioural problems, metabolic complications such as cardiovascular disease or Type 2 diabetes, increased risk of cancer, breathing difficulties and increased risk of disability or premature death in adulthood.
It is not fair for young people to face such a future. The need for change is so urgent that many governments, including the UK government, are not only introducing plans, strategies and policies to tackle childhood obesity but also starting to consider changes in regulations. Both England and Scotland have tried voluntary initiatives encouraging reformulation of products to remove sugar and salt from the food and promote healthy options. Unfortunately, their success was limited.
For children it is not a matter of personal responsibility but rather of the environment we create for them and the examples they see. We are bombarded with messages about food and drink every day. Very often these messages promote products high in sugar, salt and fat. Until Summer 2017, advertising of junk food to children online, in print or on billboards near schools is completely unrestricted. Junk food is cheap and available everywhere. Not surprisingly, it is a default choice for children and young people.
This situation can no longer continue. If the Scottish Government is serious about increasing the proportion of children of healthy weight, they must take immediate action to support families and communities to make the healthy choice the easy choice. We must tackle the factors that get in the way of eating healthily. This is why Scottish Government should take immediate action to restrict price promotions of unhealthy food, tackle the marketing, advertising and sponsorship of unhealthy food and regulate to control portion size. Only by taking such brave and bold action will we begin to see families empowered to eat more healthily.
Public support for such actions by the government is of paramount importance. In addition to the usual resolutions of cooking more healthily, avoiding snacks or being more active, make a resolution to help to create a healthy food environment for children and young people in Scotland. Become an example of a good healthy lifestyle to young people, and show support and encouragement to our government to make brave and bold decisions putting the health of the future generations first.