Playing the Fiddle
01 April 2015

The debate has raged for years. Whose job is it to help people reduce their weight? Is it all down to the individual? Or should it be the responsibility of the NHS, GP’s and nurses? Or is it all up to Government? Of course it’s all too easy for one group to blame the other. The people call out for help. The Government says it is up to the doctors. The doctors complain they don’t have the skills, or the financial incentive (yes, that is what some of them say) to deal with it. The result of course is that while we’ve all been bickering about who should be doing the work, the problem has only intensified. It’s as if we have been a collective Nero, playing our fiddle, trying to decide what to do, while watching Rome burn. In the past twenty years, while we have been talking about it, obesity levels in this country have increased by more than 300%, from around 6% in the early 80’s, to 25% today.

Obesity is a product of our genetic inheritance and our environment. Put simply, while our genes might “load the gun”, our environment “pulls the trigger”. By environment I mean the way we live our lives, the place we live our lives, and the influence of all those around us. The evidence is very clear.  Someone who lives in the rough part of town, who has little or no income, and who is faced with little choice, and therefore little control over their lives, is far more likely to have a weight problem. Changing the environment might be akin to changing society, but if the so-called “Big Society” is to have any chance at all it needs Government to take the lead. An individual can’t make their neighbourhood streets safer on their own. They can’t create work opportunities in the town. And they can’t suddenly find they are a font of knowledge about how to live a healthier lifestyle. 

So, in my opinion, the first responsibility must fall to government. That said, while we’re all waiting, and we’ll wait a long time, the only resource we really have is ourselves. And we owe it to ourselves to take the lead in our own small part of this big world we live in.  Health starts at home. Small steps can, in time, build up to large changes. If we could all make a simple resolution, to think at the start of every day, “what could I do today that would be good for me and good for my family?” And, more to the point, if we acted upon that thought, can you imagine what a huge change would begin to arise in our own lives, our families, and our communities?