Apr 25, 2011 No Comments
Malaysia’s government plans to include the body mass index of students on report cards as parts of its efforts to fight obesity, it was reported last week.
While controversy might have been expected, the government’s plans were received pragmatically by students, the BBC reported – unlike, it is worth noting, the justified outrage sparked by the revelation that the country had also launched an anti-homosexuality campaign, which involved sending 66 boys aged between 13 and 17 who had been identified as having effeminate mannerisms to a “gay cure camp”.
While I’m confident Scotland will not be seeking to learn any lessons on equality from Malaysia – this is, after all, a country where gay sex is illegal and where one MP claimed men have extramarital sex because of ‘wives who neglect their responsibilities’ to their husbands – its approach to its obesity challenge is interesting.
Like Malaysia, where one in six people is either overweight or obese, there is a pressing need for Scotland to face up to its weighty problem.
In a recent letter to the Scotsman, top tennis coach Judy Murray, mum of Scots tennis ace Andy, warned that, in addition to the health challenges posed, Scotland’s sporting hopes were “drowning in a diet of chip fat served up with an unhealthy dollop of youth and parental indifference to exercise,” and called on politicians to double PE lessons to four hours per week to improve Scotland’s sporting success and reduce obesity rates.
While Murray’s letter is a powerful rallying call for action, particularly as politicians’ minds will be focused by the approaching Olympic and Commonwealth Games, Scots politicians are, like their Malaysian counterparts, already painfully aware of what awaits us if we do not tackle this issue early.
“The ticking timebomb, I think, in the health service in terms of a range of illness that could become much worse if we do not place even more attention than has currently been placed is on the whole issue of obesity,” Scottish Liberal Democrat spokesperson Ross Finnie told Holyrood’s recent health hustings. “We know that cardiovascular disease has been on the decline, but obesity could turn that around in a trice and we could end up with obesity, type 2 diabetes all going in completely the wrong direction if, on a preventive sense, we do not look at that.”
Murray urged in her letter that practical solutions can be found then driven by political, educational and parental will. Scotland can search for inspiration within or outside its borders if it so wishes. But the important point is it must look.