A study by the Health Promotion Administration released on Monday shows that obesity is on the rise.
It attributed the trend to the prevalence of automated devices such as robot cleaners and washing machines, a lack of activity due to long work hours, and the growing number of food delivery services. One expert cited in the study also points to the pervasiveness of shops selling sugary beverages, which remain popular despite legislation last year requiring shops to advertise the amount of sugar and calories in their drinks.
Ultimately, people are free to choose what they eat and drink, and the amount of physical activity they engage in, but the government can take actions to promote a healthier lifestyle.
An article published by Web site healthline.com on Sept. 21, 2018, suggests a multi-tiered approach, including encouraging meals with fewer calories and “spontaneous exercise,” and promoting healthier diets — starting with school meals for children. Citing Global Obesity Prevention Center executive director Bruce Lee, the article says that such ideas work only if they become a habit.
“This can’t be a part-time thing. You can’t say: ‘As a hobby I’m going to change my nutrition and physical activity,’” the article quotes Lee saying.
This is why the last suggestion — regulating school meals to promote children’s health — is an important place to start. If children grow up eating junk food, not only is their success at school affected, they are also unlikely to ever develop healthy eating habits.
To encourage healthy lifestyles for adults, including regular exercise, the government could work with companies to form initiatives for employees.
For example, as many companies in Taiwan have workplace cafeterias or rent out space to businesses catering to their employees, the government could subsidize companies that offer healthy onsite food choices for workers. For those who cook at home, the government could give tax breaks for submitting itemized receipts showing the purchase of approved items such as fresh produce, or healthy products.
At the same time, it could discourage unhealthy eating and drinking by implementing a “fat tax” or “sugar tax” on products deemed unhealthy, such as sugary beverages and fast food.
Exercise could also be encouraged by subsidizing gym passes for those with workplaces near public gyms, or by funding the installment of gym facilities in office buildings that are not near public gyms. Companies could then be encouraged to — or even mandated to — provide daily exercise breaks.
Because obesity can lead to a wide range of serious illnesses like diabetes and heart diseases, which are taxing for the healthcare system, it is in the interest of the government to encourage healthy lifestyles. A healthy population is more productive and more likely to conceive children — an important issue as Taiwan ages.
Of benefit to the diets of Taiwanese, the nation is a major producer of fruit.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the government made use of the National Health Insurance system to distribute masks through pharmacies. A similar system could be implemented by cooperating with supermarkets or convenience stores, through which the government could allow people to make weekly subsidized purchases of domestically grown fruit.
The government could furthermore help families make healthy dietary decisions by providing free classes on how to cook simple, quick and nutritional dishes. Such classes could be organized by borough wardens, who typically arrange activities for their communities.
Wardens could also be encouraged to arrange hiking trips that would allow community members to see places that they would otherwise not visit.
To combat obesity the government must make implementing a healthy lifestyle easier for people.
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