Anti-obesity initiative has fat chance of success

PUBLISHED: 17:02 10 February 2009 | UPDATED: 15:59 11 May 2010

I M SURE we all have adverts that we love to hate. For some time now I ve harboured a healthy dislike for those My day in the Citi banners that you see plastered across the back of buses in Cambridge - as if anyone who travels by bus could afford to buy

I'M SURE we all have adverts that we love to hate.

For some time now I've harboured a healthy dislike for those "My day in the Citi" banners that you see plastered across the back of buses in Cambridge - as if anyone who travels by bus could afford to buy a pair of Manolo Blahniks, eat out at a restaurant twice, and go on to the cinema and a nightclub, all in one day.

But over the last week or so, I've spotted a new batch of commercials which have been getting right up my nose, namely the Government's incredibly patronising change4life anti-obesity campaign.

It offers groundbreaking advice like "doing more exercise can help you get fit", and "eating fruit is a healthy alternative to chocolate or crisps".

I should say that the aim of these adverts is a noble one.

We're constantly being told that children in this country are the fattest in Europe, so anything to try to address this can't be that bad, I suppose.

But in my opinion this just re-enforces the fact that we now live in a complete nanny state.

People aren't totally stupid. Even the more mentally-challenged members of our society will know that fruit is better for you than junk food, or that if you don't exercise you'll put on weight.

While I believe the Government needs to do something to deal with the increasing problem of obesity in society, I hardly think this kind of rudimentary advice is the way to do it.

There is no end of research showing that obesity is intrinsically linked to people on low incomes, and no amount of filling out questionnaires - another option available to you on change4life website - is going to change the fact that people can't afford good quality ingredients to make healthy meals for their families.

Perhaps our ministers would be better off coming up with ways to combat the culture of fear which has been cultivated over the last few years in Britain.

Parents are scared to let their children play outside for fear of them being attacked by a murderer or a paedophile or some other such unknown terror, so is it any surprise that kids are staying indoors and getting fat instead of going out and doing exercise?

And, while they're at it, perhaps they should take a look at who will be sponsoring the 2012 Olympics, which surely represents the best opportunity for years to get youngsters involved in sport and thus more fit and healthy.

Two companies who have already put their names to the London Games are Coca Cola and McDonald's.

Would it not send out a fantastic message if backing was sought from elsewhere?

I won't hold my breath on that one.

Something clearly needs to be done about obesity, but I can't see token campaigns like this making any real difference to the problem.

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