Scotland finds itself in a position where we produce some of the finest food and drink in the world but, as a nation, our diet can often leave much to be desired. The pace of modern life means that all too many of us, all too frequently, eat food that is quick, cheap and high in calories. Indeed, some people feel they have no other choice.
Our diets, activity, and weights are among the biggest public health challenges we face, with very significant preventable impacts on our health, public services and the Scottish economy.
As a government, our ambition is to change our food culture. While this change will not be easy, it is necessary. And it will need leadership and sustained action across all sectors of our society. Government alone cannot achieve this ambition.
There are three broad areas where we intend to act:
- Transforming the food environment
- Living healthier and more active lives
- Leadership and exemplary practice
In our Programme for Government, we set out our ambition for Scotland to be the best place in the world to grow up, and the best place in the world to be cared for and to be healthy. That is why we have committed to a new approach which is as important as our actions on smoking and alcohol.
Scotland's obesity rates continue to be amongst the highest in the developed world. The potential costs to our health services – and to the economy – of increasing numbers of people with chronic ill-health and becoming too ill to work, are very significant.
Given the links between obesity and deprivation, and the significant and consequent health inequalities for women and children, we need to address and target the specific needs of different parts of our population, as well as achieving improvement overall.
In considering the best approach, we have drawn on our experience of implementing the Obesity Route Map, the learning from our actions to address alcohol use and smoking, and the broad consensus on evidenced actions that will lead to success. In particular, we have concluded that:
- a broad range of interventions is needed because the factors contributing to overweight and obesity are complex.
- consumer education and personal responsibility are important, together with physical activity, but they will not be sufficient to produce the change we want to see across Scotland as a whole and they will not be sufficient for people who are already overweight and obese.
- interventions that rely less on individual choice and more on changes to the wider environment are essential in making healthier choices easier when we eat at home, eat out or eat on the go.
In short, we want everyone in Scotland to eat as well as possible, with healthy weight and diet across the population. Improving the food environment is critical to achieving this aim.
We want to hear what people who live, work and consume food and drink in Scotland think is necessary to achieve this.
We welcome your views on action which would have the greatest impact and what we should prioritise. And we welcome your thoughts on actions we should take forward in the longer-term. As with our ground-breaking strategies on alcohol and tobacco, this is the start of a progressive plan of action, learning from our experience in Scotland and further afield.
Aileen Campbell MSP
Suzanne Connolly DietPolicy@gov.scot