Tackling Scotland’s “obesity timebomb”

The Scottish Government, has published its strategy for dealing with what has been described as Scotland's obesity “time bomb”.

The Scottish Government, in conjunction with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) has published its strategy for dealing with what has been described as Scotland’s obesity “time bomb”.

The report, “Preventing Overweight and Obesity in Scotland – A Route Map Towards Healthy Weight” makes a number of serious concerns (pages 7 – 8):

• Scotland has some of the highest rates of obesity within the OECD;

• Figures from the most recent Scottish Health Survey in 2007 show that 27% of adults and more than 15% of children were classed as obese;

• More than 65% and nearly 32% of children were overweight or obese combined;

• The Scottish Government estimates that in 2007/08, obesity cost Scotland £457 million, a figure it is suggested is an underestimate; and

• It is estimated that by 2030, obesity levels across Scotland could reach 40%, an increase of 50% on 2008 levels, leading to increased levels of high blood pressure, increases in cases of type 3 diabetes and increased numbers of heart attacks sufferers.

In all, it is estimated that the rising cost of obesity could reach £9 billion.

Launching the report, Scottish health secretary Nicola Sturgeon said:

Scotland is in the grip of an obesity epidemic. Initiatives are already under way to help prevent obesity but we need to do much more.

“This is not simply a health issue, nor can we expect individuals to change behaviour entirely on their own. The solution lies in changing our entire environment.”

Among the planned measures, the Scottish Government has pledged to:

• Work to ensure portion sizes better reflect consumer’s energy needs;

• Work with industry to ensure promotions by the food industry promote healthy eating;

• Work to increase the range of healthier choices available in convenience stores;

• Look at ways of restricting the sale of high calorie foods near schools;

• Ensure all new developments take into account personal travel opportunities;

Ensure children have safe cycle and walking routes to school; and

• Encourage employers to support their staff to get more active.;

Reacting to the strategy, Dr Dean Marshall, chairman of BMA Scotland’s GP’s committee said:

“Prevention is much better than cure. It is better, healthier and safer if children are given the tools to manage their weight, eat healthily and take more exercise.

“But no-one is saying this is easy. We are in danger of raising a generation of children burdened with long-term chronic health conditions. It is vital that we take action now.”

The Scottish Retail Consortium, however was some what more cautious in calling for greater action. Its director, Ian Shearer, said:

“Retailers already have a great record on reducing fat, sugar and salt in their products, providing nutritional information and delivering excellent value, quality food — all without the need for regulation.

“We support continuing efforts in this area, but policymakers must recognise that it is ultimately individuals who decide what they eat.

Meanwhile, as warnings are made about the prospects for obesity in Scotland, calls have been made on first minister Alex Salmond to practice what he preaches.

Tam Fry, chair of the National Obesity Forum, has said:

“Politicians have a responsibility to act as role models. It’s very important those who lecture the public on the dangers of obesity practice what they preach.

“I understand Alex Salmond has a busy lifestyle but that’s not an excuse to let yourself go. Health secretary Nicola Sturgeon should tell him to be more responsible.”

Mr Fry’s comments echo similar remarks made about Mr Salmond’s weight last year by TV diet expert Gillian McKeith, when she said:

“He seems like a lovely guy, really passionate about his job but he really has a cheek. It’s terrible he is talking about the state of the nation’s health and his belly is hanging over his belt.”

McKeith added:

“We could turn the state of the nation’s health around and we should start with Alex. I really want to get him on the show. Change comes from the top. Those in power really have to set an example.”

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