The obesity epidemic is sadly not a new phenomenon, and equally sadly not one that can be easily explained.
Many factors have come into play – more sedentary working conditions, less active leisure time with the rise of the computer, high salt and sugar diets, less fresh food, more fears over children playing outside... That’s just some of a number of factors, and their relative influence and effect is up for debate.
What’s clear though, and not just locally, is that the discourse surrounding the subject is changing. A few years ago the emphasis was on the damage that could befall the individual who remained obese. That is obviously still the case, but there is a new stress on the damage that extra treatment will do to the NHS, with more and more people seeking help for more and more complications – stroke, joint problems, diabetes and heart attacks among them.
The Portsmouth Food Partnership’s work is admirable, in seeking to promote the connection between nutritious food, exercise and a healthy weight. We hope its message is taken on board.
But we can’t help but feel that a more dramatic approach may be needed to see results. As we reported a week or so ago, many drinks and foodstuffs load the body with surprisingly and dangerously high levels of sugar – but talking about the advantage of farmers’ markets will not stop children from drinking calorie-laden fizzy drinks.
The biggest single advance in public health in recent years has been the smoking ban. While there are those in pubs who blame it for a loss in revenue, what is undeniable is that it has reduced the number of people who smoke and therefore the number who will die from a smoking-related disease.
The longer the obesity crisis goes on – and look around any high street; to call it a crisis is not a huge exaggeration – the more likely it is some similarly dramatic state intervention, whether regulation or a high-profile campaign to highlight the misery that obesity can lead to, will be needed. As a doctor warns in our report today, the very future of the NHS may be at stake.