Thursday, 3 September 2009

For health we need to think of long term benefits

Preventative health care is vital to creating a healthier Britain. It will save the NHS money, help educational attainment and increase productivity.
And as Sharon Hodgson MP argued in the Fabian Review back in 2007 providing free, universal hot and healthy lunches is one way we can start to address children's poor health.
Children with a healthy diet perform and behave better in schools and providing free meals for all takes away the stigma of creating two lines at lunchtime; those that get "free" meals and those that don't.
Hodgson argued; "Money invested now will be recouped later," and there should be savings in health, education and the economy.
Today's announcement of two pilot projects for free school meals in County Durham and Newham in London is to be welcomed as it will provide a testbed for the argument and should provide data on how effective it has been, but only if it is allowed to run for a significant amount of time.
Leaders in the discussion on the future of the NHS are worried that preventative healthcare is likely to be top of the list for the funding chopper if and when cuts arrive.
It will pay not to think short term about health, a healthier Britain is better for all of us.


Michael said...

For a little while I got free lunches at school, and some of my friends didn't, and we all queued up together incidentally, so this is completely irrelevant - what really united us was the common opinion that the food we were presented with was seldom 'hot' and rarely 'healthy' (usually pizza and chips, pie and chips, chicken kiev and chips, burger and chips, chips with gravy and chips).

When my mother could afford it she put me on packed-lunches. These were much healthier. The vast majority of my school friends, as we got older, did the same.

Perhaps helping families to be able to afford to feed their own children would be better than forcing profit-driven menus down the throats of whole generations of children. Methinks that this would better constitute preventative health-care.

Letters From A Tory said...

Nice idea in theory, although this will be ever so slightly undermined when the government realises that many schools closed their kitchens years ago because they couldn't afford to run them. With only a few hundred kids to serve, on-site kitchens inevitably make a loss and schools simply cannot afford to keep them going.

Rachael Jolley said...

Michael - I don't think that the two things are exclusive. Work with parents to raise awareness of the importance of a healthy breakfast to improving their kids' day at school is also vital. And work on both should be done. Your school obviously did well in not letting stigma attached to those who were on free school meals, others were not so lucky. Many nutritionists also argue for the value of having a hot meal at the middle of your day, rather than sandwiches.

The Schools Food Trust is doing good work, as has Jamie Oliver and others, in encouraging schools to provide healthier meals.

Michael said...

Rachel - I think the biggest issue is the quality of dinners being served. History tells us that companies with profit-margins to consider will generally put cost-price before nutrition, and whether or not sufficient subsidy could be raised to alter this approach is the point at issue. As I said, the reason I went on packed-lunches was because the food was seldom hot and rarely nutritious, and I didn't much like having chips everyday. And, though I didn't pay it, they were bloody expensive too.

It would be great if free healthy meals could be provided for every child, its just that, as things stand, I'm not sure it could happen. Vast swathes of schools don't have kitchens, or chefs, and the only beneficiary (or so it seems to me) will be the big businesses who can implement a mass-scale project that can deliver school meals from a central lcoation on the kind of shoestring-budget they will no doubt be subsidised with.

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