Listening to the news headlines this morning, leading on a government-backed study on obesity, reminded me of the hit and miss nature of our understanding of where society is going – and how it has already shaped our thinking.
In response to John Humphrys’ assertion that obesity has grown as supermarkets have grown, Sir David King, the government’s chief scientific advisor and head of the Foresight Programme which drew up the report, cited driving to a supermarket as part of the problem.
But one hour earlier, Betty McBride of the British Heart Foundation, taking on the mantle of government basher, doggedly stuck to changes in food labelling, food advertising and cookery classes in schools as the key weapons in the fight against obesity. And of course the food labelling will help us all “when we shop at Tesco’s”.
Good as it goes, but interesting how the thinking of even the British Heart Foundation has been shaped and limited by the very social forces with which it is trying to deal. Listening to that interview, Ms McBride assumed that the better food regime would be developed in and around our supermarkets.
In the town that recently rejected a Tesco development, in the only town that is both a Cycling and a Sustainable Travel Demonstration Town, we could do with following Sir David King’s lead, and examining the transport policy – and health – implications of supermarket culture. Yesterday’s post, reporting on a transport safety report, suggested that urban planning is making it too easy for cars, and too difficult for walkers and cyclists. Today’s study describes our society as “obesogenic”, because of its endemic gearing towards a sedentary lifestyle.
Might it be possible that a healthy lifestyle involves seeking out healthier foods on foot and on a bike, rather than (only) “on supermarket shelves”?