Obesity levels in the Untied Kingdom have reached an all time high with one in every four adults suffering from obesity. Childhood obesity has also drastically increased with 25 percent of boys and 33 percent of girls aged between two and 19 years being overweight or obese. There is little sign of this upward trend in obesity stopping, and it will have a significant impact on the state of the country. It will negatively affect the UK’s economy and more importantly negatively affect the health of the UK’s 63 million people.
With obesity becoming this prevalent in our society is it not time we address this issue? I think it is, and one of the best ways in my opinion is to introduce a tax on fizzy drinks and fast food. This may sounds rather drastic when first heard but consider the £5.1billion spent every year by the NHS to treat those with obesity related medical conditions. Now consider the 2535 branches of Burger King, McDonald’s, KFC and Pizza Hut located all around Scotland and England, consider the number of products those branches sell and the amount of money that could be raised through taxes upon those products.
That money could be spent on our NHS which is being crippled under the weight of budget cuts and the cost obesity is having certainly isn’t helping the load. These taxes could also deter many from the promise of quick, cheap food from these outlets and could send them in the direction of healthier options. The recommendations in favour of taxing these food are quite reasonable, such as recommendation of taxes of twenty percent on sugary drinks for at least a year being put forth.
Other initiatives are already in place to help tackle the UK’s weight problem such as the ‘Change 4 Life’ initiative run by the NHS which offers free nutritional advice to those who want it. The problem is though, that as much good as these schemes are doing they aren’t working well enough. The obesity levels in this country are still rising and we need more action to stop it.
We need to have more healthy eating schemes in place around the country in places such as schools, at the work place and even at hospitals. People need to understand the risks of junk food and the major health effects it can have causing obesity, and with obesity comes a vast array of other negative health effects which include heart disease, certain cancers, high blood pressure, joint problems, psychological difficulties and diabetes.
There have been other recommendations on ways to tackle obesity with ideas like banning the advertising of foods high in saturated fat, sugar and salt before 9pm, this can help with the problems of childhood obesity as children would be less likely to have seen these advertisements meaning they were less likely to be influenced by them.
Another change that could drastically tip the scales towards healthier eating is giving local councils the power to limit the number of fast food outlets near schools and leisure centres limiting the availability of these types of food to young children. There are also plans for the government to spend £300 million on weight management programmes, that may sound like a large amount but it is far less than the cost obesity is having on the pockets of the NHS.
Taxation on tobacco products has already been proven to help reduce the number of smoking related deaths and the amount of money collected in taxes from tobacco products in 2012 (£12.1bn) far outweighs the cost smoking related illnesses have on the NHS annually (£5bn) so surely the idea of taxing fatty and sugary foods is not too drastic. Especially when there are around 35,000 obesity related deaths each year.
Other ways to tackle obesity have to do with activities rather than food. Along with the increase in junk food intake by people in the UK there has also been a large lack of exercise or sporting activity. Most people nowadays have jobs that involve sitting at a desk for long periods of the day, this combined with the fact that most people commute to work by car or bus rather than walking equals to a lot of sitting down during the day. After work most people just want to relax and so often sit down on the sofa with a cup of tea and watch television rather than do something active.
This problem is hard to tackle but if initiatives at the work place are introduced which include things like sporting clubs offered free by the workplace or other incentives to walk to work rather than drive this can serious help with the daily inactivity. The workplace can also help by removing vending machines that give out junk food and replace them with one that give out a healthy snack.
Finally one more thing the government can do to help with this problem is to subsidise the cost of healthy foods in shops. This will be useful as one of the main reasons people eat unhealthy food is because it is often cheaper than most healthier products. If the healthier products are cheaper than other choices then people are more likely to eat healthily.
Or instead of subsidising the food the government could give out food vouchers to those struggling for money to give them discounts on the healthier products in shops. This combined with taxation on the fattier foods can completely change the perception of healthy food in this country and we can begin on the road to eradicating the problem of obesity in the UK.
By Rajan Gill 11E