Waiting for the obesity message to get through

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From: Brian Sheridan, Redmires Road, Sheffield.

I SYMPATHISE with Bill Carmichael who has put on weight since breaking a leg (Yorkshire Post, April 15). I’m not sure how I would cope if injury prevented me from taking exercise though in my case I think vanity, the arch-enemy of obesity, would prevail.

Weight problems are less common among the middle classes, which makes your columnist’s case interesting, if not anomalous. Rother Valley MP Kevin Barron is right in asserting that “you can’t make somebody do something they don’t want to do”.

This is especially true of constituencies like his own. The elephant in the living room here is the fact that working-class folk are a proud and stubborn breed. Telling them to eat less or stop smoking is destined to be counter-productive: remember the South Yorkshire mothers who sabotaged a school’s healthy eating drive by bringing junk-food to the school gates?

I admire Bill Carmichael’s candour in blaming himself for his weight increase but I was left wondering what he was going to do about it. If, heaven forbid, he ends up needing treatment for diabetes, heart-trouble or any other weight-related illness, will he pick up the tab?

I believe that the NHS should treat him unconditionally. If you attempt to arbitrate over whether a patient deserves treatment or not, you are going to run into serious practical and ethical problems.

The Government policy on smoking is working. It has achieved this not by propaganda but simply by making life more difficult for smokers. Perhaps, in the fullness of time, the obesity message will get through but not, if you will pardon the pun, by ramming it down throats. Nor by hare-brained schemes at taxpayers’ expense.