Monday, May 23, 2011

Britain moves to pay MDs to shame their "fat" patients

I hope my British readers forgive me, but over the course of the past few years, your country has rapidly surpassed the rest of the developed world in a bizarre quest to become the world's most backwards in regard to obesity policy.

And pip, pip, cheerio and all that rot, good chaps, your government's done a smashing job.

I used to blame it all on the asinine decisions of your Secretary of State for Health, Andrew Lansley, who among other brilliant decisions has helped to abolish your healthier school lunch program, scrap your front of package labeling program, turn over control of your national obesity strategy to the food industry, strip your food standards agency of their food labeling oversight, and has helped to include such things as processed cereal bars as part of your "5-a-Day" fruits and vegetables campaign.

Then there was your Under Secretary of State for Health, Anne Milton, who recommended doctors quite literally call their overweight and obese patients "fat", to "inspire" them to take more "responsibility" for their health.

Well your country's gone and done Anne's call to action one better.

Apparently now your physicians are not only encouraged with words to call their patients "fat", starting next year, they'll literally get paid to do so.

Never you mind that the vast majority of physicians the world over don't have a clue what to do with their obese patients. Never you mind that the weight loss industry is an unregulated morass of snake oil and false hope. Never you mind that there is as of yet no gold-standard, reproducible treatment program. Never you mind that studies show obese patients already face cruel discrimination by health professionals, and already receive substandard care.

Nope. Instead your country has determined it's in your best interests for your physicians to formally take on the role of the school yard bully in the presumptive hope that finger pointing, shame, and a free coupon for Weight Watchers is the solution.

I've got news for Mr. Lansley, Ms. Milton and the NHS. If obesity were truly treatable as a disease of personal responsibility the world would already be much skinnier. Obesity is a disease of the environment, and you folks across the pond are doing a dandy job making your environment more, not less, conducive to obesity with your 2012 Cadbury Olympics, your regulatory free food marketplace, your pulverized flour and sugary school lunches, and your food industry funded "healthy active living" campaigns - because guaranteed, in Britain, it won't be about modifying intake with Big Food at the helm, it'll be all about exercise.

Shame indeed.