Editorial: So much carrot, so little stick

Tony Ryall is a glass-half-full kind of guy, though it's awkward to get the nation to embrace the optimistic perspective when the glass is half full of sugary fizz in the pudgy mitts of one of our obese children.

The Government spends about $60 million a year on anti-obesity programmes nationwide because it is serenely satisfied that education is so very much more reasonable than silly restrictive measures like a sugar tax or enforced advertising limits.

And look where all that lovely education has landed us. We have wobbled into fourth place among the OECD's fattest countries, which is so much better than the United States, Mexico and - please hold your phonic puns - Hungary.

Not for the first time, Mr Ryall points triumphantly to activity while critics churlishly and listlessly search for achievement.

In 2009, the Government was explaining to us that the Clark government had been too focused on trying to control nutrition and had not been enough on exercise. And that good education, coupled with promotion of healthier physical activity, were what was needed.

The counter argument, dismissed at the time, was that obesity was a complex problem that had much to do with time-poor households and a fat-promoting culture in modern life. The question was asked back then: Which option is really more in your face, healthy eating or junk?

What's the cheapest drink on the supermarket shelves. How many time-pressed parents succumb regularly to the sheer convenience of providing junkier food, or money for it?

So here we are, five years later, and where are we for our annual spend of now $60m and our so-very-much better-informed society?

Anyone pleased with the progress we have made to date must be not just modest in their ambitions, but capable of zen-like acceptance of the beauty of individual responsibility. However, the very existence of government suggests at least some role, some time, for collective responsibility.

We need to reconsider how much carrot and how little stick we are applying at present.

The Southland Times