Don’t hate the referee


Are we really to blame for the obesity epidemic?

There is a saying: don’t hate the player, hate the game.  Well, today a revision of this came to mind: don’t hate the referee, hate the game.

Listening to the radio I heard a story on the child obesity epidemic ‘sweeping the nation’.  Several London boroughs took up a chunk of the top ten places, with the rest scattered around the country.  Whilst childhood obesity is not something to defend or be supportive of, what annoyed me was the line of attack from the radio hosts and the target for their ire.

In case you hadn’t guessed, yet again local government was taken to task over this issue, and told exactly how unacceptable the situation is.  I agree, but what exactly can we do, above our current efforts.

In my borough we have a huge range of things we are doing to combat childhood obesity.  Our schools only offer healthy meals and free ones to those deemed in the most need of them, as well as pushing children to take up a form of physical exercise.  The Council funds sports activities throughout the year, especially during the holidays and the summer, and runs a huge range of healthy lifestyle activities for children, parents and whole families.

We are restricting the number of fast food outlets as best we can within the law, and work in partnership with the NHS locally to continually come up with new ways of helping children and young people to live a more healthy lifestyle.  And you know what: a lot of it makes little difference.

This is only my opinion of course, and I’m sure there are reams of paper full of data showing it’s all having a positive impact, but generally the kids who want to do sport are still doing it and those who want to pig out and play computer games will still do that.  The offer of table tennis lessons once a week might pull the most flexible of minds towards it, but rarely will it make a real difference en-masse.

What is it that people think makes a Council the only people to blame when it comes to the realisation that we don’t all live in a utopian society?  The blame could easily fall on central government for the lack of strength when it comes to changing planning laws for fast food outlets, or the way they allow PE to fall off the national curriculum.  It could fall with the TV companies, who do all they can to ensure that kids are glued to their channels as often and for as long as possible.  It could fall at some of the major food corporations, who pump junk food out at ridiculously low prices and full of the worst kinds of additives and quality.

But those are big, slick targets which are hard to make things stick to.  Local government once again is seen as the lazy, useless, weak link in the chain and are therefore fair game for criticism.  Just because a group of people in the same geographical area happen to fall within a political set of boundaries means that whatever ails them is down to the local authority, although of course anything which actually works is a success on the part of the government or companies changing their ways.

Local government generally does what it can, and does what is in its power to do.  Some of this works well, some doesn’t, but at least we are trying.  If you want to make a big change, then change the rules or change the players; until then we will continue to do what we can to make the best of what powers and influence we actually have.

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One Comment on “Don’t hate the referee”


  1. Interestingly, it is often table tennis lessons and similar co-ordination of healthy activities that raises the ire of national government too (admittedly even I think walking co-ordinator was a bit much but you can see what they were trying to do)… Not only is it local government’s fault that children are fat; they also ‘waste’ money trying to fix it. A no win situation!


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