Opinion: Fighting fat philanthropically

Peter Stanford

I have spent the past month or two cursing technology, specifically the new technology that allows friends to store your email address on their computers and then, at the flick of a button, send everyone they know a sponsorship request when they take it upon themselves to raise money for charity.

So, appearing in my inbox have been tales of treks across the lava fields of Iceland, full and half- marathons, fun and not-so-fun runs, moonwalks and so on. Practise what you preach is the subliminal message. You've talked for years about the need to get involved. Well, here we are, getting involved.

Even though my bank balance has plummeted at an alarming rate, I have taken comfort that this is evidence that individuals are still prepared to put themselves out for others and what they believe in, that their friends will support them, and that the whole grassroots of the third sector is, therefore, in good shape. Reason enough to continue offering financial support, but then along came the alarming report from the House of Commons Select Committee on health about rapidly rising levels of obesity among children.

We are undeniably raising a generation of fat children who believe that there is nothing wrong with being overweight. No matter that in piling on the pounds they are piling up health problems for themselves and an overstretched NHS in years to come. It is unthinkable to point it out.

Personal freedom, individual choice, avoidance of stick-insect stereotypes - you know the arguments.

Perhaps one way round this would be to harness the good old sponsored fun-run idea and encourage more events for children, organised through schools. That way pressure to be more healthy and active could be applied in a positive way, general body-awareness would be promoted, and a connection would be made between the young and charities so that the third sector, and thus society, would benefit.

I'm happy to make as many sponsorship donations as it takes to further such a cause - but then, of course, I'm not giving you my email address.

Peter Stanford is a writer and broadcaster. He chaired the trustees of the national disability charity Aspire and now sits on various trustee boards.

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