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Friday 28th October 2016

Obesity: society not to blame

31st October 2007

Writing in the Sunday Times, Michael Portillo believes that the obese should tackle the problem themselves and not blame society.

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A recent headline suggested that individuals can no longer be held responsible for obesity. Health secretary Alan Johnson echoed that and said ‚Äúsolutions will not be found in exhortations to greater individual responsibility‚Ä?.

But with nearly a quarter of Britons now obese, it is clear individual choices lie at the heart of the problem. Within the UK there is a strong correlation between poverty, poor education and fatness. The issue is cultural, not genetic or environmental.

If we are to reduce the risks posed by obesity to public health and our economy, it is profoundly unhelpful to imply that being overweight is inevitable, understandable or not anyone’s fault. Pretty much everyone has the potential to be trim and to bring up fit children.

We should stigmatise those who bring up fat children because it is a form of abuse.

The view that people are not to blame for their own actions debilitates any society.

Think Tanks claim in Britain a revival of communities taking more responsibility for their own destinies, though they would probably not acknowledge the trend is essentially Thatcherite. Margaret Thatcher famously attacked the idea that we can shuffle our responsibilities on to ‚Äúsociety‚Ä?.

But that is what the health secretary is saying today about fatness. Society is to blame for people being obese and exhortations to personal responsibility are therefore pointless.

However, unless it is clear that people can and must do things for themselves, then ideas of hard work, commitment and application will be incomprehensible.


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