Lyndsey McLellan: Government must tackle obesity epidemic

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Obesity is becoming an increasing health issue in Scotland, so much so that it is being termed as an epidemic, but not enough is being done on the ground to tackle the problem.

According to the Obesity Route Map, Scotland has one the highest levels of obesity in OECD Countries. The most recent Scottish Health Survey revealed that almost 27 per cent of adults and more than 15 per cent of children were obese, and more than 65 per cent of adults and almost 32 per cent of children were overweight and obese combined.

These figures paint a very stark picture. Obesity costs society dearly – in 2007-8 it was estimated to have cost more than £457 million and these predictions are thought to have been modest. By 2030, both direct and indirect costs of obesity could be as much as £0.9-£3 billion.

The implications of obesity cannot just be measured on a financial basis alone. The costs to the individual are high both physically and mentally. The reality is that being overweight or obese will cause other underlying health problems such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, joint and back problems, greater risk of stroke and heart disease, premature death and mental health conditions.

Obesity reduces employment and productivity and has a negative impact on infrastructure planning. How does someone who is obese sit on the bus, train, aeroplane or cinema seat? Do we start building bigger or do we finally begin to tackle the problem itself?

There has been a lot of talk at government level and various policy documents have followed, but there simply isn’t enough being done to tackle the problem head on.

According to the Foresight report, obesity cannot be prevented by the individual alone and requires a collective approach. Government, the food industry and health professionals need to work together to come up with a solution to this ever increasing problem, such as taxing high sugar and fatty food and drinks.

Lyndsey McLellan is the senior food and health development worker for Edinburgh Community Food