'Reducing Health Food Costs Better Than Tax on Junk' TOP DOCTOR SAYS ECONOMIC FACTORS MUST BE ADDRESSED

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), December 26, 2012 | Go to article overview

'Reducing Health Food Costs Better Than Tax on Junk' TOP DOCTOR SAYS ECONOMIC FACTORS MUST BE ADDRESSED


Byline: JULIA MCWATT Health Correspondent julia.mcwatt@walesonline.co.uk

SCHEMES that help to bring down the price of healthy produce could play an important role in addressing the obesity epidemic rather than taxing junk food, Wales' top doctor says.

There are big health inequalities in Wales with those in poorer communities more likely to suffer ill health and be overweight or obese.

But instead of putting taxes on foods with high levels of fat and salt in them, Dr Ruth Hussey said lowering the price of fresh fruit and vegetables to make them more accessible could help tackle the problem.

Currently half of adults and a third of children in Wales are overweight, a trend predicted by many in the medical profession to increase in the coming years unless serious action is taken.

Dr Hussey said: "I think there is a lot of awareness and concern around the rate of obesity at the moment in Wales. This is a complex issue that requires us to look at all factors that have created these conditions. This often comes down to socioeconomic groups and we need to look at the factors putting people who are less well off in a position where they are more likely to be obese or overweight.

"The pattern of health is unfairly distributed in Wales. The environment around people has a role in influencing people's lifestyles and we know food which has a high level of fat and salt and sugar tends to be more affordable.

"So whatever education you put into the system, if some food is readily accessible and cheaper then it is difficult for people to take the alternative approach.

"A number of organisations are calling for taxation to be used as a means of controlling the price and availability of some products."

She added: "Given the economic situation something that makes healthier food more affordable might be a more positive move rather than a tax. …

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