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Blueprint for Health and Wellbeing

11th Jan 2012 - 01:00
A bold new initiative to give a collective voice to caterers in the public sector has been launched after a successful first meeting of industry leaders. David Foad reports

More than 80 public sector foodservice industry leaders gathered for the inaugural event at the QEII Centre on December 1 – within sight of the Houses of Parliament. The main topic on the agenda was health and nutrition. In particular, caterers were concerned about lack of Government support for existing and planned healthy eating initiatives. Every speaker highlighted the increasing incidence in the UK of obesity in both adults and children and the clear link to a number of major health problems. The message came through loud and clear: They just don't get it. By the end of the day delegates had identified three key aims and three credible action points. The aims are: Protected mealtimes; Lifetime nutritional standards; and The appointment of a Government Health & Wellbeing 'Tsar'. The action points are: Collect a plausible evidence base from existing research linking diet and health; Create a public sector catering lobbying voice; and Investigate research into how best to get people to change their eating habits. These proposals are just the starting point. The aim now is to get feedback from those who took part in December 1st's event and other key public sector catering stakeholders to draw up PS100's definitive aims and actions. But why is there even a need for PS100? Delegates to the launch event were agreed about the scale of the threat. What could be more important to us than our health and that of our children? In other words, how have we arrived at the situation today that the UK is the fattest nation in Europe? We know this because data published by Eurostat in November showed nearly a quarter of women in this country – that's 23.9% - were recorded as obese in 2008/9, more than in any other country. And before the men suck in their tummies and look to tighten their belts a notch in self-congratulation, the same survey showed over 22% of them were also classed as obese. These figures for adults alone should be enough to galvanise the country, but the grim news doesn't end there. The Black Review, written in 2008 by Professor Dame Carol Black, currently the national director for health and work, found significant levels of obesity in our children too: One in six boys and one in seven girls aged 2-15 were found to be obese. What conclusions did she reach in her report? It's worth recalling her words: "This will be an increasing trend over the coming years unless early interventions are put in place to steer children away from the poor choices that lead to their becoming overweight. She went on: "Schools, colleges, vocational and higher education institutions are important settings for prevention initiatives reaching children and young people, and improving their life chances." So she sees a growing problem, but also identifies, in education catering, an important weapon in the fi ght against it. If those numbers don't come down or, at the very least stop increasing, then things don't look too bright for our children and grandchildren. The British medical publication, The Lancet, published a series of articles this summer that said that if current trends continue nearly half of UK men could be obese by 2030 and four in 10 women will be similarly overweight. That translates into 26 million obese people in the country - a rise of 73% over the current 15 million. And all the evidence points to the fact they won't be fat and jolly; they'll be tired, ill and unlikely to be working. There is a huge amount of evidence linking obesity to increased risk for a range of conditions, including high blood pressure, gallstones, cancer and, most clearly, Type 2 diabetes. If the challenges are plain to see, what is equally clear is the role for both catering operators and suppliers in the public sector in providing a solution. First of the speakers at the Public Sector 100 event was LACA Deputy Chair Anne Bull, who offered a stark fi gure to illustrate the cost of dealing with these problems in the future. She said that by 2050 half of

Written by
PSC Team