Legislation to restrict unhealthy behaviour including smoking and the consumption of alcohol and fatty foods is inevitable by 2020 if we are to retain a free NHS, according to Friends Provident in its Visions of Britain 2020, a report conducted with the Future Foundation. Experts condemn government health campaigns as failing to persuade individuals to live healthier lifestyles, so the report argues that penalties are the most likely solution.
Dr Sarah Brewer says, “We all know that we should follow a healthy low fat diet, eat at least 5-a day etc. But how many actually do anything about it? Unless an unhealthy diet and lifestyle is penalised in some way no-one will change."
New consumer research completed for the report indicates that the public recognise the need for penalties. Almost half claim to support a minimum price on alcohol or the introduction of a fat tax, and a third agree that the NHS should not prioritise people that fail to look after their health.
But the reality of consumer behaviour is much different. Less than one in five claim to adhere to government guidelines on calorie intake and exercise. Just one in three follow official guidelines on alcohol consumption.
Trevor Matthews of Friends Provident says, “There will be a fundamental and permanent change in the provision of free healthcare in the next decade. The study identifies a disconnect between our aspirations for healthcare, and our behaviour. We all need to adopt healthier lifestyles or else risk being faced with penalties in the years ahead."
The report is controversial and may be rather naive in expecting that what any of us expect society in general, other people, to do- to match what we as individuals actually do. It also underestimates how much the public detests the relentless campaigns from all and sundry organizations and experts for us all to be better healthier individuals.