Taken out of context, this assertion made by Jamie Oliver is at first bewildering, and then slightly ridiculous. ‘Child Obesity’ and ‘Islamic State’ (Isis) are not terms that regularly appear together in the same sentence, and for good reason – though they are both entirely valid issues, they belong in different worlds.
The comment was made during the filming of the Channel 4 documentary Dispatches, and was admittedly rather offhanded: “If you are worried about the thing that hurts British people the most, it ain’t Isis, right?” Clearly, Oliver did not want this statement to be the one that garnered all the media attention. It seems as though he was merely trying to stress how dangerous child obesity can prove to be, but chose a rather poor combination of words to do so.
So the debate is not about child obesity posing a greater threat than Isis. Instead, it is about the idea that something politically very significant has changed, which has spurred Mr Oliver into speaking out.
You may remember (or choose to forget) an event which happened earlier on in the year: David Cameron decided to step down from his position as Prime Minister on account of Britain choosing to leave the European Union. Theresa May, the former Home Secretary, succeeded him. This change guaranteed different policies, and it is the new Prime Minister’s attitude towards tackling childhood obesity which has rankled Oliver.
He does have a legitimate point. May completely dismantled Cameron’s so-far successful plan and replaced it with something considerably less impressive. To put things into perspective: in the previous government, childhood obesity was made a flagship issue. This meant that representatives from No. 10 were in charge of the issue rather than the Department of Health.
The new plan May proposed was released at midnight, with A-Level results coming out the next day. One cannot help but wonder whether this was the most strategic time to do this. As Oliver puts it: “With the whole of government on holiday, it absolutely screams out ‘we don’t care’”. Even when the two official documents are compared side by side, Cameron’s is 37 pages long, and May’s only 13 pages. Certainly, the Dispatches documentary points out that the previous plans have been largely watered down.
If we examine the actual problem around which all of this is taking place, we discover that it is not an issue to be taken lightly. The treatment of obesity and all other diseases which occur as a result of it is estimated to cost the NHS £5.1 billion a year. Shockingly, this sum is more than the British taxpayer pays for the fire and police services combined.
Needless to say, it is imperative that we work to prevent obesity in order to gain long term benefits. However, as Oliver makes apparent, there is nothing in May’s strategy that will monitor progress, so we will not even be able to see whether the new revised plan has been any success or not. By no means was Cameron’s plan perfect, but it was a whole lot better than this one. At the very least it had goals to work towards; he aimed to cut childhood obesity by half within the next 10 years and thus have 800,000 fewer obese children by 2026.
Jamie Oliver is right to be protesting so vehemently against our new Prime Minister. It must be infuriating to see years of hard work become dismantled in such a short space of time, especially when the issue at hand has the potential to affect the generation of tomorrow so negatively.
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