Why am I fat?

The local pool

Suicide

Suicide is a tricky one. It’s hard to argue that people make a choice to commit suicide; killing yourself is not a choice anyone else can make for you. However, when we look at the environmental cues for suicide, there are some truly astonishing things to see. Bridges are a great case study.

Look at the barriers. Those save lives.

Obesity

You may have heard the term ‘obesogenic environment’ before, and assumed that the person making the statement had a silly preference for making up words. However, there is a massive pile of evidence indicating that your environment goes a long way towards explaining your weight. For example, areas with more active transport (particularly bicycles) have lower levels of obesity. Lower socio-economic status areas, particularly those without adequate parks and recreation facilities, have higher rates of obesity. There are literally healthy food deserts where you have to travel 4+km in any direction to get anything that isn’t deep-fried.

Not to be confused with Health Food Desserts, which are an abomination unto the Lord

Policy

All this comes back to the political landscape. When most government policies focus on ‘free will’ interventions to our increasing obesity epidemic, it’s important to understand why. Listen to most politicians talk about obesity; they’ll mention getting people active; they’ll talk about getting us to eat more healthily. Rarely do you hear a leader of the country calling for more investment into active transport. Both major parties have backed off from a proposed sugar tax that has a great potential to change the environment and save lives across the country. The same is true of suicide. No one ever mentions that changing reporting methods for suicides in the media can prevent deaths. There is some good policy out there (for example limiting the number of pills you can buy in pharmacies), but all too often the environmental role is completely swept under the rug because a) it’s too expensive and b) we want to blame people for their problems. Giving extra money to mental health organisations is great, but if we don’t change the environment all we are doing is treating the symptoms.

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Epidemiologist. Writer. Podcaster. Twitter https://twitter.com/GidMK FB www.facebook.com/gidmkhealthnerd/ Email gidmk.healthnerd@gmail.com

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