Scotland has a good policy framework in place to tackle obesity but there is an inconsistent approach to implementing and resourcing these policies according to MSPs on the Health and Sport Committee.
The Committee found Scotland has the worst weight outcomes of all the UK nations. In a letter to Aileen Campbell MSP, Minister for Public Health and Sport, the Committee outlines that to effectively tackle this issue there needs to be a joined up policy approach with consideration given from other areas such as education, local government and transport.
The Committee is also concerned that over 40 per cent of food in the UK is bought on promotion – the highest rate in Europe – and the vast majority of promoted food was junk food, with unhealthy food being more available and more heavily promoted than in other countries. MSPs want the Scottish Government to tackle this to the extent possible through regulation or fiscal control. If it is not possible to stop the promotion of unhealthy foods the Committee wants healthy foods to be given equal prominence.
Convener of the Health and Sport Committee, Neil Findlay MSP said:
“We all know obesity is one of the biggest issues impacting on the health of people in Scotland and particularly those living in more deprived areas. The threat and impact caused by obesity is nothing new. However it is disappointing that whilst the Government has good policies in place to try and tackle this issue, they don’t seem to be working and there was an inconsistent approach to resourcing these policies.
“Scotland has not previously been afraid to take the initiative to tackle health related issues when other interventions have failed. This is why this Committee is asking for a bold approach to tackling obesity.
“If we don’t act now, we will be condemning future generations to a lifetime of poor health which is often driven by poverty leading to poor dietary choices.”
In its letter the Committee is disappointed that the gap is widening between the least and most deprived when it comes to obesity. Although this is down to a range of factors it appears people on low incomes with very small budgets will prioritise calories over nutrients and also because the least deprived are able to respond better to the health messages they hear. The Committee is asking the Scottish Government what more it can do to ensure interventions reach all of society.
The Committee also heard 40 per cent of adults were not meeting physical activity guidelines and that only 2 per cent of the transport budget was spent on walking and cycling. The Committee is keen that these activities are made accessible to all and asks the Scottish Government what action it plans to take to increase participation in walking and cycling.
During the inquiry the Committee heard Scotland has the worst weight outcomes of all the United Kingdom nations and among the worst of any Organisations for Economic Co-operation and Development nation. In 2010 65 per cent of adults were overweight, including 29 per cent who were obese. In children 28 per cent were at risk of becoming overweight while 15 per cent were at risk of obesity.