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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 March 2006, 02:01 GMT
Starting young to tackle obesity
The health, social and psychological problems arising from being overweight are being highlighted by this year's National Obesity Awareness Week.

In an article for the BBC Scotland news website, Deputy Health Minister Lewis MacDonald explains his hopes for tackling the issue.

Deputy Health Minister Lewis MacDonald
Mr MacDonald said work was already under way in schools

Obesity is no laughing matter.

It can be bad for you in lots of different ways.

But many of the ways to avoid becoming overweight can be enjoyable, simple and free.

Just walking when you have the chance - to work, to school or to the shops - could make a big difference and help keep your weight down, and of course being sensible about what you eat and drink will help.

But why does it matter that obesity levels are rising?

In Scotland, one-in-five 11 to 12-year-olds is obese and nearly two thirds of adults are overweight.

We are encouraging healthy eating and physical activity in schools

Obesity can contribute to poor health and is linked to increases in diseases like diabetes.

This is a burden on individuals and the NHS, which could be avoided.

Getting it right has to start with the young.

We are encouraging healthy eating and physical activity in schools.

We are raising the standard of school meals through Hungry for Success, and we are providing free fruit in primary one and two.

Obesity Awareness Week poster
A helpline has been launched as part of Obesity Awareness Week

We have also announced plans to remove high sugar drinks from schools.

More than 600 active school co-ordinators have now been recruited to drive forward greater participation in physical activity, including school sports.

But not all children enjoy sport.

So we are also supporting Scottish Youth Dance to train teachers from across Scotland to provide dance as a way of being physically active.

But it is not only children who need to think about their weight and their health.

Everyone should take responsibility for their actions and can help to be a part of the solution

As we get older we often think we have less time to be physically active or we have no time to think about what we are eating as we are too busy.

We probably know what we should be doing but haven't yet taken action.

Maybe we are thinking we will do it tomorrow, or next week, or that it will be too much of a change.

But you don't have to change a lot to make a big difference.

Fruit stall
Parents have been encouraged to set a good example

Most of what we could do requires little effort - simple things like taking the stairs instead of the lift, getting off the bus one stop earlier, thinking about what you eat, grilling instead of frying and eating more fruit and vegetables.

National Obesity Awareness Week (12 - 18 March) highlights again that being overweight is a health issue none of us can afford to ignore.

Everyone should take responsibility for their actions and can help to be a part of the solution.

We can all choose to change.

The Obesity Awareness and Solutions Trust has launched a help and information line on 0845 045 0225.

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