George Orwell’s Prophecy

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The Road to Wigan Pier was published by George Orwell (of Nineteen Eighty-Four fame), to describe life in an English town where the people subsisted on potatoes, white bread, margarine, corned beef, and sugared tea. The author expressed a wish that the poverty-stricken people would make an effort to include more fruits and vegetables in their diets, but that would have been unlikely for many reasons.

Orwell felt that conditions had been dire for so long, the palates of the working-class Brits pretty much automatically rejected wholesome food. He wrote something really worthy of our attention:

A man dies and is buried, and all his words and actions are forgotten, but the food he has eaten lives after him in the sound or rotten bones of his children. I think it could be plausibly argued that changes of diet are more important than changes of dynasty or even of religion.

That was 80 years ago. And now here is a very recent quotation from Wigan Council’s director of public health, Professor Kate Ardern:

We recognize how important it is to instill healthy habits in young people and that by doing so will help them to go on and continue to lead healthy lifestyles into adult life.

These words, written by Rachel Howarth, were published about a week ago by WiganToday.net:

The number of Wigan children leaving primary school overweight has risen over the past five years, with almost four in 10 reported as medically overweight or obese by year six… 37 per cent of children in 2016/17 reached their last year of primary school with weight problem.

According to the National Child Measurement Programme, this is higher than the national average, which is a mere 34.2 percent.

A program promoted by the local government as an innovative project for the whole family. “Let’s Get Movin'” has a familiar sound to Americans, being so close to Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” Professor Ardern mentions that the program includes specialist weight management service, health promotion work and healthy lifestyles intervention, and prevention education.

The family signs up for a 12-week intensive intervention. The later, followup support might consist of a gym or swim club membership for the family.

Prof. Ardern also mentions The Daily Mile, a program which currently encompasses more than 9,000 kids in 50 primary schools. In “early years settings,” similar to preschool, there is the Daily Toddle. Both help the youngsters to take part in and appreciate the benefits of daily exercise that becomes a consistent habit.

Aside from being free, the Daily Mile program is quite simple and able to be administered by untrained staff. No special clothing is required, no equipment needs to be set up, and the time investment is little more than a quarter of hour each day. There is no competitive element, and every child succeeds.

The Daily Mile has ambitions and effects beyond the physical, improving the social skills along with mental and emotional health. Adults have observed other effects, like improvement in concentration, mood, behavior, and general well-being. Children often get better grades, and generally acquire increased awareness of health-related practices.

Of course this is not the first fitness program to be practiced in schools, and it probably won’t be the last, but every such effort has effects measurable not only in the present, but unseen effects that reverberate through the years.

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Source: “The Road to Wigan Pier,” Gutenberg.net.au, undated
Source: “Rise in number of obese Wigan schoolchildren,” WiganToday.net, 01/18/18
Source: “The Daily Mile,” TheDailyMile.co.uk, undated
Photo credit: Ben Sutherland on Visualhunt/CC BY

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