Obesity a hot topic for Dutch parliament

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Political parties are divided on solutions to improve the country's weight problem.

The Hague -- Minister of health Ab Klink will meet with the lower house of parliament Monday over how to reduce obesity in the Netherlands, according to the ANP news service.

Proposed solutions will focus on overweight children. A 2007 report by the NICIS institute predicted that one in five Dutch youths will be obese by 2015.

Political parties are divided on how to solve the country's weight problem. 

A ban on junk food advertisements directed towards children under 12 years old and banning snack machines in schools were on the table Monday, reports de Volkskrant and nu.nl.

However, the liberal party (VVD) instead supports a greater emphasis on athletics. The party believes banning vending machines in schools would not solve the problem because students craving unhealthy food could just go to a nearby snack bar.

According to the ANP, parliament is approximately divided into three camps:

  • Labour (PvdA) and the Socialist Party (SP) are in favour of forcing food manufacturers to change their advertising focus away from children. Henk van Gerven, an SP member of parliament, wants to have firm agreements with schools to provide healthier food for students.
  • Liberals said big companies like Coca Cola and Unilever do not deliberately target their advertising toward children. VVD member Halbe Zijlstra wants sports back in schools instead.
  • Christian Democrats (CDA) do not want to impose new rules for businesses, but called for the food industry and the media to work together to help children live a healthier lifestyle.

There is also support for a municipal ambassador programme, in which a local sports hero or other fit role model would work with schools, shops and sports associations to promote a healthy lifestyle.

SP'er van Gerven emphasised that the plan should include enough cities to make an impact on overall obesity levels in the Netherlands.

According to the NICIS report, the more likely children are to be physically active, the less likely they are to become obese. Therefore, measures that include city infrastructure, such as increasing the number bicycle lanes, should be considered.


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