Health & Wellbeing

Live better to live longer

Fruit and veg being unzipped to reveal junk food

No surprise to read in the news this week that England’s richest people live significantly longer than our poorest. The North South divide also reared its head again as the journalist, writing for The Independent and quoting figures published in The Lancet, cited eight years separating the male life expectancy of the richest people in the South East from the poorest in the North (apparently, if the North West was a country it would be in the bottom five for its habitant’s health outcomes).

The study also threw up that, although we are living longer, there hasn’t been a decline in the rates of illnesses or disabilities. Our health service can treat and contain our ailments, as we get older, but it certainly can’t cure them and so we are, collectively, spending longer years in ill health.

The researchers also presented findings to indicate that unhealthy diets and obesity are the biggest causes of said ill health, factoring far higher on the scale than smoking or drinking.

This, sadly, ties in quite neatly with another of the week’s popular news items: The story of the three-year-old girl with type 2 diabetes.

It’s a US story: The girl was diagnosed in Texas having been taken to a clinic because she was obese. The diabetes was successfully reversed once the family had been given strict dietary instructions and advised to encourage the child to be more active. The child went on to lost 75 per cent of her weight and her blood glucose levels returned to normal.

The doctor who diagnosed the child, Dr Michael Yafi, asserted that “reversal of type 2 diabetes in children is possible by early screening of obese children, early diagnosis, appropriate therapy and lifestyle modification.”

Although this is an American case, Diabetes UK estimates that around 600 children in the UK have type 2 diabetes.

If you put these two stories together, one overwhelming truth emerges. We are in the grip of an obesity crisis and it is affecting the poorest in our society. Children are merely hostages of fortune as their health is pre-determined by the socio-economic statuses of the families that they are born into. Our education is often determined by where we live and how much money we have and so, it would seem, is our health.

They go, to a certain extent, hand-in-hand. With a bit of education, we can all eat better and that, of course, impacts on our health. If you have good health, many other obstacles in life are surmountable and you will always have the potential to improve your fortune.

It’s good to have Jamie Oliver back on his soap box with stories like this coming through. No matter what your opinion is of him, he raises awareness across all social strands and has the common touch. If he wants to wage a war on sugar while taking on the fast food and fizzy drinks industries, then let’s all cheer him on. We know the stories aren’t going to get any better until some action is taken. At least then we might stand a chance of changing some of the endings.