The Government’s Role in Health Promotion

Nowadays many people die from weight related diseases, these can normally be prevented by improving eating habits and lifestyle choices. But, how easy is it for people to choose better?

As a dietitian and public health professional I find myself promoting healthy eating very often.  However, I have realised that it is not just up to the people to try to get healthier. It is the government’s job to make it easier for everyone to make these changes.

A year ago, I found myself moving to Barcelona, a city full of life and full of bars and restaurants. Asking for tap water in Barcelona is impossible as waiters argue that tap water is not drinkable in Spain. In fact, Barcelona’s water is safe to drink as it follows EU regulations and the company in charge of water in Barcelona has many ISO certifications that secure the water’s innocuousness. In addition to this, a bottle of water in Barcelona is sometimes either the same price or more expensive than a beer or sugary drinks. In contrast, countries in the European Union like the UK and France make it mandatory for bars and restaurants to give free tap water to customers, making it easier for people to choose healthier.

By the same token, in consultation, I always suggest patients to choose whole meal bread and pastas over white ones. Many of them stick to refined grains given that wholemeal products are normally more expensive. It is a fact that eating refined carbs lead to increased risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes, such as it is a fact that it is cheaper to make wholemeal products than to make heavily processed ones, and still people need to pay more for getting the healthier option.

The idea that to eat better is necessary to spend lots of money is a problem I have encountered many times. The current trend of organic foods makes it seem like eating healthily is only for those who can actually afford it. People from a low socioeconomic status find it impossible to eat the so-called organic products. Showing people that healthier does not necessarily mean organic or more expensive should be a public health priority.

Given these points, it is evident that support from the government is essential in order to make it easier for people to choose the healthier option.

José Carlos Flores

Masters in Public health student at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona


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