Yesterday, I had the privilege of witnessing some of the greatest accomplishments of British Athletics at London 2012. Jessica Ennis, Mo Farah and Greg Rutherford all won Olympic golds on home soil and the nation rejoiced. It represented everything we could have wanted from the Olympics.
But then it happened.
I suppose it had to. On the news, the question was asked.
“How do we sustain our success for the next Olympics? Can we use this to battle the obesity epidemic we’re facing?”
The British athletes of London 2012 have had an unprecedented degree of financial support in the run up to 2012 to give them every opportunity of succeeding. We want to maintain our success but in a time of austerity when resources are slim, and our so called ‘leaders’ are bewildered by the lack of an obvious solution, it’s clear this isn’t going to be straightforward.
That takes us to a separate issue. We often enjoy pointing the finger across the pond at our rather large compatriots mocking their extra large milkshakes and meat feast portion sizes.
Well, we’re not doing too great either with the rise of childhood diabetes, hypertension and a provoking rise in heart attacks in younger demographics.
We are in for a rude awakening.
So the question here is that in a world of limited resources if we were forced to make a decision would we:
A. Invest exclusively in our athletes
B. Invest exclusively in our obese
Let’s be straight about this. Investing in our athletes will help a tiny percentage of our population, the top 1%, who will have access to state of the art facilities and world-leading specialists and trainers who will hone them to as close to perfection as the human body will allow. Don’t kid yourselves either, the trickle down effect of having successful athletes will not solve our obesity epidemic.
But the glory. We love the glory and the sustained successes of our athletes will encourage our youth to embrace sport more wholeheartedly. Remember, the psychology though. Those more likely to embrace sport are likely to come from a home environment conducive to the disciplines of sport and will themselves have the innate skills to excel.
Investing in the obese is a whole different ball game and it’s not as if we’re not trying. Education, socio-economics assessment and errr TV chefs have forever attempted to reduce the growing rate of childhood obesity as well as that of the general population. Yet, despite all the efforts we’re not getting very far.
Perhaps its simply because junk food is cheaper. Maybe its easier to get? Or should we just blame the big bad advertisers?
I have no idea. All I know is that the financial burden on the NHS is a sizeable one (pun intended) and an unhealthy population becomes a diseased population at a younger and younger age.
I suppose the easier option would be to invest in our athletes but I think the long term benefit is in turning round our obese population yet it just seems so much harder to solve that one.
When the glorious glow of London 2012 fades and the daily news stories return to their usual drudge of misery I can’t help but think that we will forget altogether about our nation’s health and its much wider impact on our public services and our ability to work as a population.
My question is after all a hypothetical one and I would hope that we can invest in both programs but in an age of austerity prioritisation is a reality we have to face.
So vote in the poll and let’s hear your thoughts!
Who do we invest in? The Fat or the Fit?
Agree or Disagree? Tweet me @Saif_Abed or comment below!
Dr Saif F Abed
AbedGraham Healthcare Strategies Ltd