Thursday, August 31, 2006

Obesity and class

As I was waiting for the train this evening I was watching the news on a big screen in the station and there was an item on obesity in the UK. The highest risk of obesity than average is in Easington, near Newcastle while the lowest risk was found in the City of London and Kensington and Chelsea. Well, after getting home and quaffing some Claret (I attend the gym a couple a times a week unlike a manual worker who is less likely to go probably due to being unable to afford being stiffed by a private gym).

Corby, an old steel town, is 21% higher than the national average and the borough I grew up in, Sandwell, is 5th in the pecking order. Kensington and Chelsea has one of the lowest risks and no surprise there it is one of the richest boroughs in London (and poverty is hidden as well). The choice of shops there are Harrods and Waitrose. You are hard pressed to find a Sainsburys or anything else as the Nobs will probably organise a demonstration and petition for lowering the tone of the neighbourhood (I worked around there for over 7 years and it is no joke!).

Interestingly, Bliar's constituency, Sedgefield is 4th in the pecking for higher than national average. Will he give a toss? Probably send one of his minions up there with the message that his voters have to hang on until the next election and afterwards they can conk out due to heart failure.
But what about this survey? Emily Sparks, a health consultant at Experian (they're the lot who look into your dodgy credit details) argues: "Through better health mapping, we can now provide timely and relevant information to enable the more effective targeting of communications and the delivery of preventative care to social groups and neighbourhoods most at risk of obesity".

How that's gonna happen? Are they sending the health guru Gillian MacKeith (that annoying woman on Channel 4 who tells what you can and can't eat) to places with high risk of obesity to moralise and lecture people into eating their greens and foods high in fibre? The lowest risks of obesity were London boroughs and they are clustered together. The affluent crescent of London.

Does prevention include eradicating pay inequalities? You don't have to be a rocket scientist to work out that mortality rates between social classes is increasing. A woman working in a manual occupation is more likely to experience raised blood pressure and hypertension than a middle class woman.

Class disparity is reflected in sporting activities such as swimming as more middle class people participate than working class people. How many council-run swimming pools left which charge a pittance? Most are part of expensive gym complexes. How are people expected to afford the charges?

Obesity is about bad diet but equally it is surely about demoralisation, alienation and stress. Working long hours and not eating properly. Food which is packed full of salt, sugar and saturated fats. Cigarettes and booze iron out the depressing creases in life but screw up your health as well (well, if you gonna die sometime I hope to be quaffing Claret and smoking a spliff).

Instead of targeting (moralising) specific groups what about improving the quality of life for people?