Just an idea:
Not necessarily a new thought, but on that appears to have lost support in this challenging economic time. Raise taxes on food classed as “fast” and on products that have extremely high rates of sugar and salt content. Use the money, directly, to enable lower taxes on fruit, vegetables and lean meat. These new tax revinues should only be used to lower taxes on good fresh food. Shouts of injustice and unfairness over making cheap food more expensive can be consoled by the rise of cheap and healthy meals and food plans from our supermarkets, green-grocers and butchers. Just an idea.
The BBC on the 24th of February of this year announced that “The UK is seeing an explosion in diabetes linked to obesity rates”… and poor diet. The report that it was quoting from; The Journal of Epistemology and Community Health Report, suggests that rates of diabetes are increasing faster in the United Kingdom than they are in the USA, “where prevalence of the disease is already one of the highest in the world.” The report goes further to suggest that poor diet and related factors such as obesity were the primary causes of this steep rise.
If you were to work out the finances of this rise, and the impact that the disease is having on our national healthcare system you would find that the NHS spends almost £1 million an hour treating the disease, around 10% of its yearly budget. A government spokesman speaking about the issue suggests that this funding allowed more people suffering the disease to get the support, advice and treatment required to prevent or delay complications.
This of course is a necessity. The NHS would not by a true healthcare system if it did not provide such services, however Anne Milton, the Shadow Health Minister suggests that “…we need to see proactive policies which look to reduce obesity” and improve diet, rather than policies that “simply treat the effects of it.”
Another paragraph and another diet related illness; this time heart disease. This is by far the UK’s biggest killer: In 2002 heart disease caused 39% of the deaths in the United Kingdom, and killed just under 238,000 people. (Source; British Heart Foundation)It is very important to remember the human cost of this disease, more than one third of fatalities in Britain are a direct result of HD, and thus almost everyone will know or have known a sufferer, some more than others. However on a rather cold, economic note, the disease costs the national healthcare system over £1.7 billion a year.
Moreover, the British Heart Foundation suggests that the majority of economic costs from the disease “fall outside healthcare and are due to illness and death in those of working age and the economic effects of their families and friends who care for them.” (In 2006, production losses due to heart disease cost the UK an estimated £8.6 billion)
Both diseases have direct links to poor diet and obesity, and can be helped and prevented by better eating habits and better exercise. As long ago as 1994, a government report stated that a reduction in fat and sodium intake and an increase in lean meat, vegetables and fruit could seriously lower the potency of both Heart Disease and Diabetes so why has so little been done? A few policies led by the Conservative Party such as a rebalance of the tax system, might just be the first of many steps in combating not only an expensive range of preventable illnesses but also the awful grief and unhappiness that follow them.