Political Choices for Obese Brits

Oh Andy Burnham. I am already seeing the results of your pledges. Under 16s and over 60s are now able to swim for free at my local pool, but to compensate the pool is now charging 10p more (a 3% increase in charges for everyone else, basically.) That is wonderful for non-earning kids, and pensioners, but for someone like myself who is barely treading water after my utilities, travel, food, rent, taxes and loan repayments, it is not so wonderful. I hope you can extend your charity to making access to swimming cheaper for all of us.

I’m also applauding the removal of targets and numbers, but I feel it is just going to be replaced with more buzzwords and jargon. Too little and too late for the Labour Party.

“I feel we have been too timid on the public health agenda,” he said. “In the past 60 years the NHS has picked up the pieces. Obesity, alcohol and drinking cost the NHS £10bn a year.”

Not that didn’t expect this, but it sounds like us folk in the UK will be looking forward to a Government that will get more and more nosey into our personal choices as the years go by. It is almost enough to make me vote Tory, I must admit, except that tories, being the traditional part of the UK Middle Classes, can be just as judgemental. The Shadow Health Spokesperson, Andrew Lansley, shows a complete misunderstanding of the details of what it takes to be overweight and Obese. On the face of it the Tory campaign seems almost offensive to me (it’s entitled ‘No Excuses’.)

But digging deeper into this article from August of last year, and I find myself more sympathetic to the approach, although it seems on the whole to be fairly hypocritical. The start of his campaign wants people to take responsibility for their ‘obesity’, rather than blaming it on environmental or genetic concerns.

“Tell people that biology and the environment cause obesity and they are offered the one thing we have to avoid: an excuse,” he said.

“As it is, people who see more fat people around them may themselves be more likely to gain weight. Young people who think many of their friends binge-drink are likely to do so themselves. Girls who think their peers engage in early sex are more likely to do so themselves.

Wait. What? The old ‘omfg fat is contagious’ argument, perhaps? I’m sure the fatosphere has covered the UK health politics before, and I’ve DEFINITELY seen our US bloggers declare outrage over schemes like this one:

He floated the idea of incentives for small businesses to improve the health of employees. “We will take action to ensure people have the opportunities, information and incentives towards healthy living,” Lansley said.

That sounds a bit like nannying and shaming in the work place, doesn’t it? Lansley is both propagating the idea that fat people make other people fat, and wants to introduce the pressures of health and exercise interference into a small business environment. Such a potential for workplace bullying and shaming I cannot think of. However the dude does manage to redeem himself by returning to age old Conservative Party rhetoric.

“Tackling the environment should not be a licence to lecture people, because they have no excuse not to exercise, or eat their fruit and vegetables. Nannying – at least among adults – is likely to be counterproductive. Providing information is empowering, lecturing people is not. So, no excuses, no nannying.” […]

“We must not constantly talk about tackling obesity and warning people about the negative consequences of obesity. Instead we must be positive – positive about the fun and benefits to be had from healthy living, trying to get rid of people’s excuses for being obese by tackling the issue in a positive way.”

I feel that the shame and the ignorance will simply be perpetuated. It sounds like this logic will be used as a way to punish fat people instead of lecture them. If there are ‘no excuses’, then it sounds like obese people who have received these ‘positive examples’ and are still fat will be fair game later on down the line.

I won’t bother covering UKIPs approach, although they are a much more respresentative party in the UK since their wins in the recent EU elections, but I will cover the Liberal Democrats, the UK’s third party. Norman Lamb, the Lib Dem Shadow Health Secretary offers very little in difference, in terms of ideology, to the Labour and Tory parties. Fat is still teh Big Bad and teh Big Cost to the NHS. Horrifying statistics are wheeled out about how we cost the NHS £16bn, and die 11 years earlier than ‘healthy people’ on average. Except, wait, the burden on health care is growing because people live longer in general, not because they die.

Norman’s ideology revolves removing the power from whitehall, and giving to local government. The words used revolve around ‘financial freedom’ and incentives. Such as tax breaks for being healthy.

“We’ll give communities the power to raise a proportion of revenues locally. Then our health boards can innovate to enable and encourage local people to improve their health,” Lamb said.

“Incentives could be offered to encourage employers to provide fitness facilities or gym membership to overweight people who can’t afford the normal fees.

Not that I wouldn’t mind cheaper swimming or use of the gym facilities, but those overweight people won’t be getting any richer if they lose the weight. If the weight did come off, and they could no longer afford the gym, all that weight will be going straight back on, and worse than before. And with yo-yo dieting and so on, they will end up with more health complications. Generally the Liberal Democrat policies on Healthcare seem somewhat half assed, and lacking in the precision of the Labour and Conservative Parties, who both have recent experience of Government to draw on in their policy making. Liberal Democrats, as much as I vote for them every time, have some way to go to truly distinguish their policy making on health.

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~ by Pewter on June 12, 2009.

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