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Obesity is a pressing concern for the Scottish Executive, with an estimated 21 per cent of adults and 18 per cent of 12-year-olds in Scotland classified as obese. The associated serious health risks—such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke and hypertension—identify obesity as a key risk factor for focused action. Experts acknowledge the need for emphasis on prevention and on the relationship between diet, physical activity and obesity.
Our health improvement programme focuses strongly on improving diet and raising physical activity levels. Findings from the recent health education population survey suggest an increased awareness that lifestyle changes are needed to improve health and encouraging signs that more people are achieving the recommended levels of physical activity and eating more healthy foods. However, there is much work still to be done in integrating prevention measures effectively with the management and treatment of overweight and obesity.
Does the minister agree that it is strange that the Executive has no specific target for reducing levels of obesity, given that one in five 12-year-old children are classed as clinically obese? Given the money that the Executive is rightly investing in improving diet and levels of physical exercise, surely there must be a target on the back of that to measure that improvement. Will the minister commit to setting a clear target for reducing obesity among children and adults?
The Executive's strategy is about health improvement and prevention, not cure. No less a body than the World Health Organisation has endorsed our approach as a benchmark for others to follow. The Executive has enough targets, strategies and plans, which include the diet action plan, the physical activity strategy, the healthy living campaign, the work that goes on in our schools and the work that is done all round Scotland by our health service and by our partners who deliver our health improvement strategy. We are focusing on challenging the issue and dealing with the problem. As I said, those messages are now getting through and people are making different lifestyle choices on exercise and diet.
There are targets for individual aspects of our strategy but, collectively, they relate to the improvement in the health of the people of Scotland. As a Government, we try to do our best on those matters, but individuals also have a choice to make. In our debate later today, it will be clear that the health benefits of breastfeeding can contribute significantly to a reduction in obesity levels. The Executive's health improvement strategy contributes significantly to all sorts of targets, including on the issue of obesity. The
Before I proceed to the next question, let me place on record an observation. Members who enter or leave the chamber should not do so by way of the well of the chamber. When members move around the chamber, they should attempt never to pass between a questioner and a minister who is giving an answer. I will convey that message specifically to the member who has just left.