We are burdened with diseases. To say that the health and wellbeing of Pakistanis is abysmal, and in need of dire improvement, would be a profound understatement. In fact, Pakistan is suffering from a serious health crisis due to government inaction, lack of nutritional awareness, and the affordability of unhealthy food items. Even more distressing is the fact that very little attention is being paid to this critical issue. On average, we are likely to have shorter lives compared to other populations. For instance, the life expectancy for men and women was 66 and 67 years respectively in 2016, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). This is significantly worse than the life expectancy of our neighbouring countries, such as China, India and Iran. The leading cause of our population’s low life expectancy rate is ischaemic heart disease, also known as coronary heart disease, as per data published by WHO and UN. Predominantly, this type of heart disease is caused when someone is physically inactive, overweight, has high blood pressure, and/or high blood cholesterol, according to the British Heart Foundation. According to the WHO, in 2016, the life expectancy for men and women in Pakistan was 66 and 67 years, respectively. This is significantly worse than the life expectancy of our neighbouring countries, such as China, India and Iran In other words, it is dependent on people’s social activities, their lifestyle and their nutritional intake. For instance, the causes of high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol can be accurately underpinned by excessive salt and oil in one’s diet. Likewise, being physically inactive and overweight is not an issue that can’t be easily solved, nor is it hereditary. Instead, one’s weight is dependent on daily activities and food options. Therefore, this depressing situation is not unavoidable. A number of effective steps and measures can be taken to improve the health and wellbeing of the whole population. These proposed steps encompass both a top-down approach and a bottom-up strategy. Moreover, these proposed initiatives are based on evidence, and have been successfully trialled in other countries around the world. From a structural perspective, federal and provincial governments must impose taxes on unhealthy products like fizzy drinks, sweets and fast food. A similar initiative has been successfully implemented in the UK recently after fierce lobbying by campaigning organisations. The British government, for example, gave a clear choice to companies: reduce the amount of sugar in food products or face a tax. As companies don’t want to pay the tax themselves, they are handing it down to consumers, which means their products become more expensive and therefore less appealing to potential buyers. Meanwhile, the revenues that are raised from this tax are used to fund sports education in schools and give additional funding to local authorities to run free-of-cost sport clubs outside of school hours. Adopting this tax proposal into our legislation would yield plenty of benefits. On the one hand, it would effectively ensure that unhealthy food items are purchased less frequently. On the other hand, it would mean that the products that are sold contribute directly to additional funding for healthy activities for young people. This extra funding could hence be used to construct sporting grounds and initiate community activities that can generate awareness about the importance of living a healthy lifestyle and its positive effects. Besides this top-down approach, people must also change their lifestyle and not just rely on a potential government push. Far too often, families order takeaway food and eat in restaurants, which means that they are predominantly consuming unhealthy food – food which is usually rich in sodium chloride and oil. It is therefore pivotal that regardless of what party wins this year’s general election, they must make it a part of their strategy to enact positive steps to improve the health of our country’s population. While this may not be a popular promise to make prior to the election, it is nonetheless a vital area to focus on. The writer is the author of Diary of a Foreigner: Thoughts on Brexit and Assistant Editor of Student Voices. He tweets @MuhammedRaza786 and can be reached at MuhammedHussain1998@gmail.com Published in Daily Times, June 30th 2018.