Kirsten Patrick is Deputy Editor at CMAJ
There's a quote from the film 'When Harry Met Sally', (Meg Ryan, Billy Crystal) that I always thought was rather profound. One of the supporting characters, a writer, says,
Restaurants are to people in the eighties what theatre was to people in the sixties.
That dates the movie, and me, but how much more true it is now, I think. In the past three or four decades food has come to define us socially and has evolved into entertainment more and more.
Earlier this week Dr John Fletcher and I published an editorial in CMAJ called 'A political prescription is needed to treat obesity', which garnered some criticism from two high profile Canadian bloggers. Dr Brian Goldman of CBC's "White Coat Black Art", only mildly critical, suggested that the idea of a donut tax was impractical given the ease of cross border shopping for Canadians. Dr Arya Sharma, who writes the daily blog "Dr Sharma's Obesity Notes", was far more derisive . Dr Sharma misinterprets our editorial and suggests that we are naively arguing that taxation and regulation of high-calorie and nutrient-poor food products is the ONLY viable approach to the obesity epidemic. Which, clearly, it is not. We are in no way in denial about the need for a multi-pronged, multi-generational approach in response to rising obesity. In fact, perhaps Dr Sharma did not read the whole editorial before pronouncing judgement as we clearly state: "Strategies that include individual interventions, school-based nutrition and activity interventions, incentives for active commuting and changes to thebuilt environment should continue; however, we also need robust ways to restrict portion sizes and reduce the sale of sugar-sweetened beverages and other high-calorie, nutrient-poor food products."
The problem of population level obesity is multifactorial and has been decades in evolution. Political solutions that involve laws and taxation will take years to show benefits - and obviously effective treatment and lifestyle-choice solutions will continue to be necessary. But that does not mean that we shouldn't back political solutions as part of a more comprehensive strategy for treating obesity and NCDs in the longer term. ...continue reading