Lord Darzi, Chair of the London Health Commission, has today set out his Plan for London, with an aim of making our capital a healthier place to be.
Front and centre of the briefings and broadcast headlines has been the proposal to ban smoking in public spaces like Trafalgar Square and London’s parks, which has been lauded by pioneering ex-New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. But it is the proposal to implement 400m exclusion zones for fast food outlets around schools that really caught my attention.
Don’t get me wrong, I very much agree that obesity and malnutrition is spiralling out of control in this country. There is also little more depressing than seeing children flooding out of the school gates to dive straight into a greasy mound of hot wings, rather than a proper evening meal. Indeed a stark, heart-wrenching exhibition by Ella’s Kitchen and Kids Company recently showcased artwork expressing the emotions of children who went to school hungry and went home from school to a takeaway box, rather than a wholesome dinner. But to really tackle this, is a reactive ban on fried chicken near schools the best we can do?
Firstly – we all know that making something forbidden, or more of a challenge to get hold of, just makes it more enticing for children.
Second – we should surely prioritise looking at the underlying causes that are driving children and families to make unhealthy choices first, before we attack the market response to it.
Third – we should invest more time, resource and energy in prevention rather than cure if we are going to stem the time long term. Campaigns like Averting a Recipe for Disaster, which are promoting parental education as well as nursery level intervention, have got the right idea.
So whilst a few less KFCs, PFCs, Chick-Inns and the like is welcome, let’s be more ambitious than that London.