Governments’ focus on obesity has also been the subject of criticism. In his best-selling book [Fat Politics: The Real Story Behind America's Obesity Epidemic], J. E. Oliver claims that diet, exercise or medical history are more likely to be direct determinants of health outcomes rather than obesity, which might be one of the outcomes of unhealthy lifestyles, but not necessarily the determinant of adverse health consequences.
Oliver also argues that measurements might be flawed, especially body mass index (BMI), which is defined as ‘not only a poor measure of health, it is actually a lousy measure of obesity’.
The other day Peter Mowbray of Live In Blackpool had his crusade against takeaway shops near schools in the Gasjet. There’s a lively debate about this on his website which is worth a look, especially if you’re going to agree with me!
A number of commenters have suggested that one in five children in Blackpool are obese because of the proximity of takeaways to schools, and Peter himself quotes some research done that confirms this.
Clearly, banning the sale of anything will reduce its consumption, be it chocolate bars, fizzy drinks, cigarettes or chips. But surely this is police state politics; is a blanket ban on takeaways near schools going to have any impact on the number of obese children?
It won’t make them exercise any more and certainly has no effect on the volume of food that they eat, whether or not the food police are happy with its nutritional value.
The picture is far bigger than just kids eating chips at lunch time. As you know, athletes eat an awful lot of calories: far more than the average obese child. But that’s because their bodies demand it. Could the solution be to address the reason kids are unable to burn off a portion of chips at lunch time, rather than banning the portion of chips itself?
But what about the food they eat outside of school hours: do the parents have a responsibility here? Is this call for a ban a shirking of responsibility from parents that can’t, won’t or can’t be bothered to educate their kids? Is it shirking the responsibility of authorities who have been selling off school playing fields like there’s no tomorrow? Is it the fault of the schools for not providing good quality alternatives? Are all kids of the PS3 generation?
Maybe chips are all the kids can afford?
There are a lot of questions here, and I think singling out one thing to ban is missing the point. No bans are needed: the root cause must be addressed and that lies in the social fabric of Blackpool.
It has been shown in studies in the USA that there is an inversely proportional link between wealth and obesity, so as wealth increases obesity decreases. Blackpool is a relatively low wealth area and as a result it suggests that obesity will be higher than some leafy suburb of Cambridge. Indeed, during the recession we are in, takeaway sales have soared. Dominos Pizza saw massive increases in sales once the recession started to bite. Greggs said in October last year that it was planning on opening 600 new shops.
You can’t change the demographics overnight…