Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

By MICHAELEEN DOUCLEFF   January 15, 201410:52 AM

The U.K. has plenty of fresh produce available, such as these vegetables on display at a garden show in Southport, England. But these healthy options cost more in the U.K. than in any other country in Western Europe.

The U.K. has plenty of fresh produce available, such as these vegetables on display at a garden show in Southport, England. But these healthy options cost more in the U.K. than in any other country in Western Europe.

The Healthy Food Rankings

According to the advocacy group Oxfam, here are the easiest and hardest countries in the world to find a nutritious and diverse diet.


1. Netherlands

2. France, Switzerland

4. Denmark, Sweden, Austria, Belgium

8. Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Luxembourg, Australia


121. Yemen

122. Madagascar

123. Ethiopia, Angola

125. Chad

The Dutch are known for their lax drug laws, tall statures and proficient language skills.

Perhaps we should add stellar eating habits to that list, as well.

The Netherlands ranked as the easiest country in the world in which to find a balanced, nutritious diet, the advocacy group Oxfam reported Tuesday.

France and Switzerland shared the second slot. And Western Europe nearly swept the top 20 positions, with Australia just edging into a tie for 8th.

Where did the U.S. land?

We tied with Japan for 21st place, despite the fact that we have the most cheap food available. Our friendly neighbors to the north, Canada, took the 25th position out of 125 countries.

A banana seller makes his way to the market in Burundi’s capital, Bujumbura. The small country in eastern Africa ranked last in terms of malnutrition in children.

Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images

A group of researchers at Oxfam, an anti-poverty nonprofit based in Oxford, England, concocted the ranking scheme to measure the best and worst places to eat around the world.

We’re not talking about the density of Michelin-starred restaurants or whether you can get wild salmon versus farmed-raised fish at the grocery store.

Instead, the ranking considers whether families have sufficient access to fresh produce, nutritious proteins and clean water — and whether these options are affordable compared with less healthful options.

The team’s conclusion?

“Basically, if you arrive from Mars and design a food system, you probably couldn’t design a worse one than what we have today on Earth,” Oxfam’s Max Lawson tells The Salt. “There is enough food overall in the world to feed everyone. But 900 million people still don’t have enough to eat, and 1 billion people are obese. It’s a crazy situation.”

To compile the rankings, Lawson and his colleagues spent a few months analyzing eight reports from the World Health Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N. and the International Labor Organization.

A country’s score depends on how much food is available (so richer countries have an advantage), the nutritional value of that food and how diet helps or harms the nation’s health.

The team measured that last metric by looking at diabetes and obesity rates in each country. Not surprisingly, that’s where the U.S. stumbles: We ranked 120th out of 125 countries in terms of how diet influences health.

The problem is linked to poverty, Lawson says.

“Food is very, very cheap in the U.S. compared to most countries,” he explains. “But the fact is you end up with people malnourished in one of the richest countries because they don’t have access to fresh vegetables at a cheap enough price to make a balanced diet.”

At the other end of the spectrum are countries that struggle just to get enough food on each family’s table each day. Chad, Ethiopia and Angola ranked at the overall bottom of Oxfam’s list, in large part because of high malnutrition rates and the relatively high cost of foods in these countries.

“People think that hunger is inevitable, but that’s just not true,” Lawson says. “There is enough food in the world to ensure that nobody goes to bed hungry.”

The problem, in large part, is getting fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains to people who need it, he says. “Even in countries with famines, there’s still often enough food. Someone is hoarding it, or it hasn’t been distributed.”

And that problem isn’t new. “Very famously,” he says, “during the Irish potato famine, the British were exporting Irish wheat to the U.K.”

Click here to read the original NPR article.


on October 04 2013 12:35 PM

Frozen Amsterdam Canal
Source: Twitter

Austerity measures in debt-ridden European countries have led to much hardship across the continent. Now, under proposals forwarded by the government in the Netherlands, elderly, chronically ill and even disabled Dutch may be required to perform some kind of work in return for health care and social services.

Holland, drastically overhauling its social welfare system under a crushing weight of debt, may compel such vulnerable people to do “voluntary work” in their communities in exchange for benefits, as proposed by Health Minister Martin van Rijn.

“Loneliness could perhaps be overcome if the elderly helped preschool children with language impairments, improve their reading,” read part of the draft legislation, according to the Volkskrant newspaper.

“Or a retired accountant in a wheelchair could help out at the local council’s debt advice service.”

British Prime Minister David Cameron has already lauded the dramatic changes the Dutch have proposed for upending their welfare state and suggesting it as a model for the U.K.

The Daily Telegraph reported that up until now only unemployed people in the Netherlands had been pressured to do community service work in exchange for benefits. Now, the government could empower local councils to ask the elderly and others in an “intrusive manner” to do such work. Each municipality would be free to determine what kind of work they need to be done by the aforementioned groups.

Liane de Haan, the director of Algemene Nederlandse Bond voor Ouderen (ANBO), an organization that represents Dutch senior citizens, generally welcomes the proposal, suggesting the elderly want to work and feel useful.

“Elderly people, who receive care, are not necessarily sick and pathetic. The way some talk about needy seniors places them outside society,” she said. “I think everyone wants to be useful, infirm or not.”

Under the Dutch austerity budget, the amount of money that the government has earmarked to local councils for home care services for 750,000 people was slashed by about €2 billion ($2.7 billion ) to €11.2 billion ($15.2 billion).

A columnist named Carla Wijnmaalen wrote in Dagelijkse Standaard newspaper: “A test for a civilized country is how it treats the weakest among its population. And who is weaker than frail older people? … Martin van Rijn and his Labour Party should be ashamed of this broken and vulgar austerity program.”

But Holland’s King Willem-Alexander announced last month that sweeping changes would be imposed on the government’s budget, hailing the end of the welfare state.

“The classic welfare state of the second half of the 20th century … brought forth arrangements that are unsustainable in their current form,” he said in a televised speech.

The king proposed that the country’s new social contract would involve greater personal responsibility for citizens and less dependency on the state.

“The shift to a ‘participation society’ is especially visible in social security and long-term care,” the king said.

Spending cuts by the government have already been condemned by labor unions and economists, and Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s government is losing popularity. Even with all the cuts in place (including thousands of layoffs in the military), Holland’s budget deficit is expected to climb to 3.3 percent of GDP in 2014, above the EU-mandated 3 percent.

Moreover, Holland’s GDP is expected to contract by 1 percent this year and grow by only 0.5 percent in 2014, Associated Press reported.

“The necessary reforms take time and demand perseverance,” the king said. “[But they will] lay the basis for creating jobs and restoring confidence.”

Click here for original article.

Original DutchNews article found here

Wednesday 21 November 2012

The legal age for buying cigarettes in the Netherlands is ‘very likely’ to be increased to 18, the Telegraaf reports on Wednesday.

The paper says junior health minister Martin van Rijn is currently working on policies to tighten up official policy on tobacco and this is one of the options. Currently, 16-year-olds can buy cigarettes and tobacco products.

According to RTL news, draft legislation could be presented to the cabinet by the end of this year.

Earlier this month, several large tobacco organisations called on the government to increase the age limit to 18, in line with plans for the alcoholic drinks industry.

Bars and cafes

The number of smokers in the Netherlands will have risen to 26.2% of the adult population by the end of this year because of government policy, anti-smoking group Stivoro said in early November.

Efforts by anti-smoking campaigners to reinstate a smoking ban in small cafes and bars failed earlier this year when judges in The Hague ruled the law does allow exceptions.

Health minister Edith Schippers relaxed the ban in 2010 so that bars smaller than 70m2 with no staff did not have to comply.

However, the ban is widely flouted in other establishments. Anti-smoking campaigners estimate smoking continues in around half the country’s clubs and bars.

Schippers has been widely criticised by health campaigners for being too lax about combating smoking and not employing enough inspectors.

More smokers in the Netherlands

Monday 05 November 2012

The number of smokers in the Netherlands will have risen to 26.2% of the adult population by the end of this year, anti-smoking lobby Stivoro says on its website.

In 2011, the percentage of over-18s who smoke was 25%, but that will go up by 170,000 people this year, research by TNS Nipo shows.

The organisation blames the increase on the relaxation of the smoking ban in small cafes and the removal of help with stopping smoking from the basic health insurance package.

‘Government policy appears to have directly influenced the number of smokers,’ Stivoro director Dewi Segaar, said in a statement.

Customers can continue to smoke in small bars, judges rule

Wednesday 16 May 2012

Efforts by anti-smoking campaigners to reinstate a smoking ban in small cafes and bars failed on Wednesday when judges in The Hague ruled the law does allow exceptions.

Anti-smoking group Clean Air Nederland took the Dutch state to court in an effort to enforce a ban on smoking in all bars and cafes.

One of the first acts of the current government in 2010 was to relax the ban so that bars smaller than 70m2 with no staff did not have to comply.


However, the ban, brought in over four years ago, is widely flouted in bigger bars, cafes and night clubs.

Clean Air Nederland argued the current situation has led to unfair competition with bars which do keep the law. In addition, ‘the state is breaking international agreements to discourage smoking’ and undermining existing Dutch laws, the organisation said.

The court in The Hague said current tobacco laws do allow exemptions to the ban. In addition, the judges said claims that the relaxation of the rules conflicted with the Dutch constitution were not proven.

‘The exemption for small bars has led to smoking in around half of all cafes,’ Clean Air Nederland said in a reaction. ‘This not only damages the health of other patrons but of a lot of workers.’