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Obesity strategy: policies placing responsibility on individuals don’t work – so why does the government keep using them?

Obesity strategy: policies placing responsibility on individuals don’t work – so why does the government keep using them?

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Most of these initiatives still place emphasis on getting people to change their eating and lifestyle habits. Africa Studio/ Shutterstock

The government has recently announced a strategy aimed at reducing obesity in the UK. It will introduce a ban on unhealthy food advertisements on TV before a certain hour, end “buy one, get one free” junk food deals, and create more comprehensive calorie contents on food and drinks.

The government has also launched the Better Health campaign, to motivate overweight and obese people to lose weight. The programme offers tools and support from NHS weight management services, including a Better Health 12-week weight loss plan app.

While some of the proposed strategies are long overdue – such as bans on junk food advertisements – most of these initiatives still place emphasis on getting people to change their eating and lifestyle habits. Not only does this type of strategy ignore the many drivers of obesity, such initiatives have also been proven ineffective time and again.

Individual responsibility

For decades now, health promotion policies targeting non-communicable diseases have focused on getting people to change their lifestyles. The rationale is that these diseases (such as diabetes and heart disease) are mostly due to modifiable factors – such as poor diet, smoking, consuming alcohol and not moving enough.

These campaigns aim to give people the information needed to change their behaviour. So-called “nudges” are also used to promote lifestyle change. Examples include greater visibility of healthy food in supermarkets and encouraging people to take the stairs where possible.


Read more: Four reasons the UK government's obesity strategy may not work for everyone


However, a growing body of research shows these types of health policies don’t work. This is because such policies place responsibility on the person, ignoring the other drivers of obesity. Social inequity, the influence of food and beverage industries, and specific aspects of globalisation (including trade liberalisation) are all known causes of obesity.

High street fast food restaurants.
Unhealthy food options are often cheaper and more accessible than healthy ones. sixpixx/ Shutterstock

Policies focused on changing behaviour end up blaming people for factors which are often entirely out of their control. What’s even more worrying in the current context is the government’s emphasis on obesity as a reason for the UK’s number of coronavirus deaths. While there’s undoubtedly a link between obesity and COVID-19, the government’s obesity strategy is effectively shifting the blame from the government’s response onto people living with obesity.

Health policymakers increasingly acknowledge that many factors outside a person’s control contribute to health inequalities. However, the health policies designed time and again still tend to promote lifestyle interventions as a solution.

Research shows that obesity disproportionately affects people from poorer backgrounds. Yet instead of seeking to change the causes of these inequalities, policy responses continue to promote lifestyle changes, only more strongly targeted at poorer populations. This stigmatises poorer population subgroups instead of offering real solutions. And it fails to take into account issues of access and affordability of healthy lifestyles that people from low-income communities often face.

Corporate involvement

One reason the government continues to design policies that place responsibility on individuals is because of the growing involvement of food and drink manufacturers in policymaking. This is because the food and drink industry is still considered an important partner in the fight against diet-related diseases – despite obvious conflicts of interest.

The idea that everyone can work together towards a common good, reflects a governance style that became popular over the last decades in the US and Europe. It promotes the creation of partnerships and the inclusion of industry at all stages of policymaking. This is done through impact assessments and consultations.

Blurring the boundaries between the private and public sector is problematic for public health. Processed food and soft drink industries have an interest in keeping health promotion policies focused on individual behaviour. Doing so, they avoid regulation and can protect their bottom line. In addition, they can engage in corporate social responsibility activities to promote healthy behaviours. This makes them look good, even though their products are the cause of the problem.

Although advertising bans go against industry interest, the commercial determinants of health are much more deeply ingrained than the obesity strategy currently recognises. If governments continue to embed industry lobbying in health promotion policies, they are likely to remain limited to individual responsibility.

Meaningful change will require a rethinking of policymaking processes to prioritise public health over private interests. It will also require more explicit engagement with the economic and political drivers of obesity when making future policies.

Charlotte Godziewski does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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Federal Food Stamps Program Hits Record Costs In 2022

Federal Food Stamps Program Hits Record Costs In 2022

In early January, The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board warned that one peril of a…

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Federal Food Stamps Program Hits Record Costs In 2022

In early January, The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board warned that one peril of a large administrative state is the mischief agencies can get up to when no one is watching.

Specifically, they highlight the overreach of the Agriculture Department, which expanded food-stamp benefits by evading the process for determining benefits and end-running Congressional review.

Exhibit A in the over-reach is the fact that the cost of the federal food stamps program known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) increased to a record $119.5 billion in 2022, according to data released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture...

Food Stamp costs have literally exploded from $60.3 billion in 2019, the last year before the pandemic, to the record-setting $119.5 billion in 2022.

In 2019, the average monthly per person benefit was $129.83 in 2019, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That increased by 78 percent to $230.88 in 2022.

Even more intriguing is the fact that the number of participants had increased from 35.7 million in 2019 to 41.2 million in 2022...

All of which is a little odd - the number of people on food stamps remains at record highs while the post-COVID-lockdown employment picture has improved dramatically...

Source: Bloomberg

If any of this surprises you, it really shouldn't given that 'you, the people' voted for the welfare state. However, as WSJ chided: "abuse of process doesn’t get much clearer than that."

In its first review of USDA, the GAO skewered Agriculture’s process for having violated the Congressional Review Act, noting that the “2021 [Thrifty Food Plan] meets the definition of a rule under the [Congressional Review Act] and no CRA exception applies. Therefore, the 2021 TFP is subject to the requirement that it be submitted to Congress.” GAO’s second report says “officials made this update without key project management and quality assurance practices in place.”

Abuse of process doesn’t get much clearer than that. The GAO review won’t unwind the increase, which requires action by the USDA. But the GAO report should resonate with taxpayers who don’t like to see the politicization of a process meant to provide nutrition to those in need, not act as a vehicle for partisan agency staffers to impose their agenda without Congressional approval.

All of this undermines transparency and accountability for a program that provided food stamps to some 41 million people in 2021. The Biden Administration is using the cover of the pandemic to expand the entitlement state beyond what Congress authorized.

The question now is, will House Republicans draw attention to this lawlessness and use their power of the purse to stop it to the extent possible with a Democratic Senate.

And don't forget, the US economy is "strong as hell."

Tyler Durden Sat, 01/28/2023 - 09:55

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Spread & Containment

A Royal Caribbean Cruise Line Adult Favorite Has Not Come Back

The cruise line has almost fully returned to normal after the covid pandemic, but one very popular activity hasn’t been brought back.

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The cruise line has almost fully returned to normal after the covid pandemic, but one very popular activity hasn't been brought back.

In the early days of Royal Caribbean Group's (RCL) - Get Free Report return from its 15-month covid pandemic shutdown, cruising looked a lot different. Ships sailed with limited capacities, masks were required in most indoor areas, and social distancing was a thing.

Keeping people six feet apart made certain aspects of taking a cruise impossible. Some were made easier by the lower passenger counts. For example, all Royal Caribbean Windjammer buffets required reservations to keep the crowds down, but in practice that system was generally not needed because capacities were never reached.

Dance parties and nightclub-style events had to be held on the pool decks or in larger spaces, and shows in the big theaters left open seats between parties traveling together. In most cases, accommodations were made and events more or less happened in a sort of normal fashion.

A few very popular events were not possible, however, in an environment where keeping six feet between passengers was a goal. Two of those events -- the first night balloon drop and the adult "Crazy Quest" game show -- simply did not work with social-distancing requirements.

One of those popular events has now made its comeback while the second appears to still be missing (aside from a few one-off appearances).

TheStreet

The Quest Is Still Mostly Missing

In late November, Royal Caribbean's adult scavenger hunt, "The Quest," (sometimes known as "Crazy Quest") began appearing on select sailings. And at the time it appeared like it was coming back across the fleet: A number of people posted about the return of the interactive adult game show in an unofficial Royal Caribbean Facebook group.

It first appeared during a Wonder of the Seas transatlantic sailing.

Since, then its appearances continue to be spotty and it has not returned on a fleetwide basis. This might not be due to any covid-related issues directly, but covid may play a role.

On some ships, Studio B, which hosts "The Quest," has been used for show rehearsals. That has been more of an issue with the trouble Royal Caribbean has had in getting new crew members onboard. And while that staffing issue has been improving, some shows may not have had full complements of performers, so using the space for rehearsal has been a continuing need.

In addition, while covid rules have gone away, covid has not, and ill cast members may force the need for more rehearsals.

Royal Caribbean has not publicly commented on when (or whether) "The Quest" will make a full comeback

Royal Caribbean Balloon Drops Are Back   

Before the pandemic, Royal Caribbean kicked off many of its cruises with a balloon drop on the Royal Promenade. That went away because it forced people to cluster as music was performed and, at midnight, balloons fell from the ceiling.

Now, the cruise line has brought back the balloon drop, albeit with a twist. The drop itself is appearing on activity schedules for upcoming Royal Caribbean cruises. Immediately after it, however, the cruise line has added something new: "The Big Recycle Balloon Pickup."

Most of the dropped balloons get popped during the drop. Previously, crewmembers picked up the used balloons. Now, the cruise line has made it a "fun" passenger activity.

"Get environmentally friendly as you help us gather our 100% biodegradable balloons in recycle baskets," the cruise line shared in its app. 

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Spread & Containment

What’s Still Missing on Royal Caribbean Cruises Post Covid

The cruise line has almost fully returned to normal after the covid pandemic, but one very popular activity hasn’t been brought back.

Published

on

The cruise line has almost fully returned to normal after the covid pandemic, but one very popular activity hasn't been brought back.

In the early days of Royal Caribbean Group's (RCL) - Get Free Report return from its 15-month covid pandemic shutdown, cruising looked a lot different. Ships sailed with limited capacities, masks were required in most indoor areas, and social distancing was a thing.

Keeping people six feet apart made certain aspects of taking a cruise impossible. Some were made easier by the lower passenger counts. For example, all Royal Caribbean Windjammer buffets required reservations to keep the crowds down, but in practice that system was generally not needed because capacities were never reached.

Dance parties and nightclub-style events had to be held on the pool decks or in larger spaces, and shows in the big theaters left open seats between parties traveling together. In most cases, accommodations were made and events more or less happened in a sort of normal fashion.

A few very popular events were not possible, however, in an environment where keeping six feet between passengers was a goal. Two of those events -- the first night balloon drop and the adult "Crazy Quest" game show -- simply did not work with social-distancing requirements.

One of those popular events has now made its comeback while the second appears to still be missing (aside from a few one-off appearances).

TheStreet

The Quest Is Still Mostly Missing

In late November, Royal Caribbean's adult scavenger hunt, "The Quest," (sometimes known as "Crazy Quest") began appearing on select sailings. And at the time it appeared like it was coming back across the fleet: A number of people posted about the return of the interactive adult game show in an unofficial Royal Caribbean Facebook group.

It first appeared during a Wonder of the Seas transatlantic sailing.

Since, then its appearances continue to be spotty and it has not returned on a fleetwide basis. This might not be due to any covid-related issues directly, but covid may play a role.

On some ships, Studio B, which hosts "The Quest," has been used for show rehearsals. That has been more of an issue with the trouble Royal Caribbean has had in getting new crew members onboard. And while that staffing issue has been improving, some shows may not have had full complements of performers, so using the space for rehearsal has been a continuing need.

In addition, while covid rules have gone away, covid has not, and ill cast members may force the need for more rehearsals.

Royal Caribbean has not publicly commented on when (or whether) "The Quest" will make a full comeback

Royal Caribbean Balloon Drops Are Back   

Before the pandemic, Royal Caribbean kicked off many of its cruises with a balloon drop on the Royal Promenade. That went away because it forced people to cluster as music was performed and, at midnight, balloons fell from the ceiling.

Now, the cruise line has brought back the balloon drop, albeit with a twist. The drop itself is appearing on activity schedules for upcoming Royal Caribbean cruises. Immediately after it, however, the cruise line has added something new: "The Big Recycle Balloon Pickup."

Most of the dropped balloons get popped during the drop. Previously, crewmembers picked up the used balloons. Now, the cruise line has made it a "fun" passenger activity.

"Get environmentally friendly as you help us gather our 100% biodegradable balloons in recycle baskets," the cruise line shared in its app. 

Read More

Continue Reading

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