Over the past few days, there has been a lot of coverage about obesity, and I was reminded to go back to the 2007 Foresight report, which, my memory told me, was a government-sponsored and extremely thorough piece of research. So I did that, and found again the single most complex diagram of interactions and outcomes that I have ever seen.
The Foresight report identifies the key elements that come together: food production, food consumption, social psychology, individual psychology, the physical activity environment, individual physical activity and physiology. I won't say it's a good read but it is stuffed full of useful facts. But... the complexity of the analysis is its downfall.
As the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges has said, the truth is simple. People get addicted to sugar and sugary drinks, manufacturers collude by producing cheap foods and drinks that that are fat and sugar heavy, and retailers collude by promoting and selling unhealthy foods in vast quantities. It's not surprising that people in poverty suffer more obesity than the better-off – they eat cheap food which is loaded with fat and sugar, because that's all they can afford.
And while these are the major causes and must be tackled, as the Department of Health (and the Foresight report) says, we all have a part to play.
When was the last time you saw broccoli advertised?
John Freeman is a former director of children's services and is now a freelance consultant