Lorraine Tulloch, Programme Lead, Obesity Action Scotland
So we have emerged from the general election campaign and now we are into the start of the Brexit process. A changing political landscape and lots of uncertainty makes it easy for public health challenges to slip down the agenda. But now, more than ever, we must continue to keep our eyes on
the prize. The prize of improved health if we improve the diet and weight of the nation. The prize of a reduction in lifestyle cancers by tackling unhealthy weight.
The Scottish Government has committed to a Diet and Obesity Strategy in 2017 and we are expecting a consultation launch in the coming months. We must ensure that the consultation includes the bold and ambitious action we need to change the food environment around us. An environment that currently uses price promotions, marketing and the bargain of a bigger portion size to push us towards unhealthy food choices.
Tackling those issues are important and urgent first steps in changing the balance of food that goes in our shopping baskets and Obesity Action Scotland is calling on Scottish Government to ensure that it restricts price promotions on unhealthy food, restricts the advertising and marketing of unhealthy food that surrounds us every day and brings consistency and action to tackle growing portion sizes.
But this will only be the start. Tackling obesity requires more than one or two individual measures. We require a whole package of systemic change.
Over the last few months Obesity Action Scotland has been gathering learning from around the world to consider what other things have been done successfully in other countries.
In Amsterdam they have seen a reduction in levels of childhood overweight and obesity across all the socio-economic groups. This is the first area in the world to show such positive progress. What is the key to their success? Significant investment, political buy-in, collective responsibility, clear targets and focused, geographically targeted interventions. What struck us most though was the pride and ownership from everyone we met in the programme. From the school head teacher to the local fishmonger there was a level of understanding and dedication to do something and make a difference.
Heading slightly further north, over the past 10 years the Nordic governments have collectively taken a new approach that seeks to change the food culture and consumption patterns of their people. Government policies promoted a new and more sustainable Nordic cuisine to international fame but others also played their part including world renowned chefs and the private sector.
Through public-private partnerships, product innovations and reformulation these new ideas are being incorporated in everyday life in the Nordic countries. What does it mean? The Senior Adviser on Food to the Nordic Council of Ministers, described how food had changed. If you visited a friend in the Nordics ten years ago you would most likely be served spag bol for dinner. Today, you would likely be given fresh, seasonal, locally sourced produce.
What can we learn from this approach? That the regulation we need to improve the food environment must be accompanied with a positive and engaging approach to promote wholesome healthy Scottish produce such as vegetables, wholegrains and fish.
There is lots of work to do to tackle the challenge we face, with 2 in every 3 adults being overweight or obese, and that work needs to start now. The Scottish Government’s commitment to a new diet and obesity strategy must be met. The health of our nation is at stake.
This article was originally published in The SCPN Newsletter Volume 8, Issue 3. Read the digital newsletter below using Issuu, or feel free to download the PDF.View the PDF
In this issue: Achieving a tobacco-free generation by 2034 and improving the reach of Scotland’s cancer screening programmes are among the topics covered in Volume 8, Issue 3. In the science section we have the CUP report on Diet, Nutrition, Physical Activity and Breast Cancer from World Cancer Research Fund, cancer incidence in Scotland and the latest cancer and lifestyle research roundup. We also have a recipe for watermelon and tomato breakfast salad to break things up!