The magazine Politico asked me to contribute to a health policy debate for both their online and magazine publication. The contribution were made under following headline:
HEALTH CARE 2024
How to solve Europe’s obesity problem
Experts tackle the bloc’s crisis of lifestyle diseases.
Life expectancy in Europe is steadily increasing. But the World Health Organization warns that progress risks backsliding amid growing rates of obesity, smoking and alcohol consumption. Heart disease and cancer are the leading causes of death among people living in the EU.
POLITICO asked nine health care experts if Europe is suffering a crisis of lifestyle diseases and if so, what should the next wave of policymakers in Brussels do about it?
Can read my contribution down below. You can also find the other paragraphs in the full article here.
Give responsibility to individuals
Bill Wirtz is a policy analyst for the Consumer Choice Center. Twitter: @wirtzbill
The measures that the World Health Organization suggests to tackle diseases caused by malnutrition, tobacco or alcohol are not only contrary to consumer choice, they also do not achieve their objectives.
Excessive price increases and branding bans have fostered the flow of fake products into the EU. Trying to over-tax products so that demand slows is regressive. It also fuels illicit trade, a trend very noticeable with tobacco and increasingly a problem with alcohol. A study commissioned by tobacco companies showed illicit tobacco trade from Algeria to France has increased 300 percent since 2012.
As for nutrition-related diseases, calorie intake is declining but so is physical activity. Lawmakers should help educators promote physical activity instead of banning products and restricting choices. Measures such as the Danish “fat tax” have shown adverse effects, with consumers keeping the same calorie intake but downgrading to cheaper products with poorer nutritional value.
Nobody is denying that some lifestyle choices are unhealthy, but giving responsibility to individuals will tackle problems like obesity much more effectively than failed government policies.