This week I’m posing a question that’s proving difficult to answer: ‘How do we get Doncaster people to live healthier lives?’
I started thinking about it after seeing a national report which found that our town is the second fattest in England. Over 64 per cent of adults in England are overweight or obese, with a body mass index of 25 or over. But in Doncaster the figure is over 74 per cent.
Doncaster has a long and proud history, so we must shake off this unpleasant reputation for being a borough of couch potatoes as soon as possible.
But how do we motivate local people to take more control over our lives so they have better diets and exercise more?
As a working GP, I see in my surgery every week the impact that poor lifestyles have on the health of people living in and around Doncaster town centre. Everyday life can be a real struggle when excessive weight causes reduced mobility and chronic illness. I can give advice on how to make lifestyle changes but ultimately people have to take responsibility for how well they live by the choices they make every day.
The bottom line is that many people eat far too much of the wrong type of food. Energy in, energy out: if you eat or drink it, you need to burn it off.
These four ‘must do’s’ are key to living a better lifestyle:
* quit smoking – Doncaster’s NHS stop smoking service can help
* keep moving – exercise regularly, at least 150 minutes – two hours and 30 minutes – of moderate activity such as a cycling or walking each week
* have a balanced diet – eat plenty of fruit and veg and starchy foods like bread, rice potatoes
* drink alcohol sensibly – men should not regularly drink more than 3-4 units of alcohol a day and women not more than 2-3 units daily
I welcome your views on why it’s so difficult for many people to do this? Poor lifestyles have a direct link to poor health. Smoking, obesity and excessive drinking cause conditions like cancer, heart disease and diabetes, which can kill or lead to long-term debilitating problems.
There’s a good video on how Oklahoma City in the USA, a place with similar obesity problems to Doncaster, tackled the problem. Mayor Mick Cornett talks about how he lost one pound a week for 40 weeks by reducing his calorie intake from 3,000 to 2,000 a day. He noticed that every year he was gaining an extra two to three pounds and wanted to do something about it. He encouraged other residents to follow his lead and collectively the city shed one million pounds, including inches off many waistlines.
Watch here: https://www.ted.com/talks/mick_cornett_how_an_obese_town_lost_a_million_pounds
Would a similar campaign work in Doncaster? Can we motivate each other to exercise more and eat less? I hope so because the consequences for not doing so are dire.