Holistic approach needed for a complex problem

Claudia Wüstenhagen, writing in German daily Zeit investigates possible solutions in the context of Germans getting fatter.

The article contrasts the attempts by health experts’ PR campaigns against the marketing power of the food industry, and reviews the “naturally attractive” response of national governments – taxation.

However, the article promotes a holistic view – if taxation was an option, it would have to be one building block in a raft of policy efforts to address obesity – “a complex social problem with many causes”. There is little empirical evidence that a tax on sugar or fat actually make people eat ‘healthier’ which should be the end result. The fact that when a tax on saturated fat was introduced in Denmark, Danish consumers crossed the border to buy their groceries in Germany illustrates the complexity of not only eating, but purchasing habits that must be considered.

The education of children at an early age is important, and the article reports on a ‘nutritional driver’s licence’ scheme to educate children in schools – making healthy options available to children in schools is also a necessity if these lessons are to be put into practice.

The fact that modern society “promotes obesity” according to Anja Kroke, Professor of Public Health Nutrition from the University of Fulda is at the centre of the problem. Until a coherent set of policies is considered – access to sports facilities, ability to cycle, children watching television, subsidies for meat production – little will change.

Indeed, piecemeal attempts through taxation will not achieve any significant societal change.

You can read the full article here at

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