Public health body calls for action on unhealthy eating, and related social problems


Greater efforts should be made to end the continuing health divide in the Netherlands by promoting healthy eating and tackling the societal problems which support it, public health advisory body RVS said in a report out on Wednesday.

Government policy has been too free and easy when it comes to closing the health gap, which the RVS said has been accentuated by the coronavirus crisis.

People struggling with problems such as unemployment, low income, debt and an unhealthy living environment are likely to enjoy 15 fewer years in good health and die up to seven years earlier than their more privileged counterparts, the RVS said.

Ending this disadvantage would require a centralised approach, more money and a consistent 15 year programme, starting in the areas with the most pressing problems, the RVS said. This effort, the agency said, should also be accompanied by a healthy eating campaign.

A ban on advertising unhealthy food, lower VAT on vegetables and fruit would be part of the package proposed by the RVS, and, it said, local councils should be allowed to refuse a licence to fast food restaurants in order to promote a healthier living environment.

The RVS also wants the next government to introduce a tax on sugar. Last year health minister Paul Blokhuis said such a tax would not be on the cards in the near future because the effect of the measure has not been proven and he preferred to make agreements with industry about lowering sugar content.

The Netherlands has had a national health plan in place to combat obesity, alcohol and tobacco use since 2018 but has so far failed to engage supermarkets. A critical Unicef report out in Sepember last year concluded that most of the food aimed at children was too high in sugar, salt and fats.

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