Saturday, January 03, 2009

A Weighty Problem

As the NSW Ambulance Service looks at buying extra large planes to transport grossly overweight patients, it's worth considering the causes of the 'obesity epidemic'.

Invited to vent their spleen in The Daily Telegraph:

Should taxpayers have to shoulder the burden of obese patients? Vote here and tell us below.
...presumably lean commenters on the above story have little sympathy for the overweight:

Kyle Ruxton of Kangaroo Flat Posted at 2:06pm today
Get the fatties to pay higher taxes to pay for all this extra equipment. Don't get other people to pay for it, after all, most people don't stuff their faces and claim they have a 'medical condition'. These lard arses need to take responsibility. Quit shovelling food into your mouth and there wouldn't be any need for extra equipment to transport these people.
The erudite Mr Ruxton misses a point one believes Acting NSW Health Minister Ian Macdonald half gets:

"This should be a wake up call to the community to watch what they eat by cutting down on fats and sugars and increasing how often they exercise." (emphasis added)
It would appear to this lean observer that it's lack of exercise that is mainly responsible for the spreading issue of obesity.

Certainly our diets are broadly higher in fats and sugars than they were two generations ago but the problem of people of normal metabolism gaining weight from eating too much of this or that boils down in the end to a simple formula of input versus output.

Food of most kinds is converted to energy in the body and if the energy is not then expended, it's 'banked' by conversion to fat until it can be expended by activity.

People always have become overweight from failing to match output with input. However, the solution to our current problems aren't to be solved in obesity expert Garry Egger's way:

"Government has got to take greater responsibility for this epidemic if it wants to reduce the enormous cost that's going to occur, the enormous cost to the next generation," he said.
It's not government's responsibility, nor is it solely the responsibility of the obese as Mr Ruxton would have it, though certainly at the end of the day it's up to those suffering the problem to do the work that will overcome it.

However, when looking to apportion blame or fault, it needs sharing around.

Poor eating and exercise habits among the young are the responsibility of parents who lack the guts to tell their kids 'no' - no to sitting around the house listening to iPods, watching TV, surfing the net, texting friends and playing Wii and imagining it's exercise. No to 'aw, drive me to school'. And no to constant snacking and poor dietary choices unless they're willing to match input with output by substantially replacing the above sedentary activities with getting out of the house, watching the world outside, perhaps actually going surfing, meeting and playing with friends, undertaking real physical activities instead of virtual ones, and getting on the bike they got for Christmas and riding to school.

Of course, not all parents are 'no-phobic' pseudo-adults enslaved to their not-so-little emperors and princesses, fearful of not giving them their every whim and thus failing to be their children's 'friend'.

There's reason to believe many parents, and children too, are just plain fearful.

They're afraid of the outside world thanks to a media that often promotes danger as omnipresent. But this is Australia and it is still a lucky country in that its streets are not those of such urban warzones as London where kids stab and shoot each other in ever increasing numbers.

However, as Australia's social order shows signs of slipping down the British path, if we're not to allow that perception to become the reality here and give parents actual rather than imagined reason not to let their kids hide at home all day, we should perhaps call on government to address the social issues of violence in society.

In a roundabout way, we're back to asking government to do something.

Perhaps that's what Garry Egger meant.

Or probably not.

-- Nick

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