Recently, Public Health England has called on manufacturers, and the places that sell food, to cut calories in products by 20 per cent. Can pubs take hold of the opportunity and become public health ambassadors during the obesity crisis?

 

Okay, I'll admit it, the idea of pubs as public health hubs may seem far-fetched, but why not?

Even though it sometimes feels like government still sees pubs merely as places of vice that need more and more regulation to keep them in check, there is no reason why pubs cannot become examplars of healthy eating and a key part of the answer to this public health challenge.

In fact, you could argue that, it is exactly because pubs have been traditionally seen as a place of vice, they hold the key to some public health issues.

How?

Firstly, it's because pubs are integral parts of the community. Increasingly pubs are not just places of food and drink but also libraries, post offices, and bakeries. In small, isolated rural towns and villages, the pub is the last vessel of community. It is the ideal place for government and local authorities to promote eating and living well - as we suggested in our mindfulness feature a few months ago.

This is the real key: in pubs you can reach people that healthy eating campaigns would never get near. Those who never go to a gym or worry about their health have always been the hardest to reach group for public health campaigners. Of this group it's not too far a stretch to imagine that a large section are pub regulars, so why don't we just make the pub the centre of their health universe?

Secondly, the concept of pubs as places of vice is dead. Smoking has been banned for over a decade, the days of gambling machines is limited, and the number of pints drunk per drinker has dropped dramatically since the 1970s.
Pubs have reinvented themselves as a family-orientated, community-minded facility during the day, and a safe space for fun and entertainment in the evening. The food on offer is no longer just stodgy "pub grub" but increasingly also full of vegan, gluten-free and better-for-you options as well.

There will be older customers that would spit out their lager and pork scratchings at the suggestion of pubs as health hubs, of course, but times are changing and pubs need to continue to adapt to survive. That means joining the fight against obesity will be good for business too.

So, come on government, stop seeing pubs as the enemy to public health and make pubs part of the answer to the public health challenge.