As the Scottish Executive's health drive for the nation gathers pace, schools are in the front seat and heads are at the wheel.
That may not be the best metaphor for a campaign to get children and adults out of their cars and walking or cycling, but it does convey the need for speed and direction.
Despite a decade of attempts to improve health, starting in 1995 with the Scottish Office's targets in Eating for Health, there is still a long way to go. A recent report showed 30 per cent of 13-to 15-year-olds were overweight and the chairman of the International Obesity Taskforce, Professor Philip James, said the problem was out of control and that Scotland is "worse than England".
Urgent action is needed, and the people the Executive is most eager to get on board are heads, because it's not just a matter of increasing physical activity through PE or teaching children nutritional values in home economics, or laying on counselling for distressed teenagers. It's all of those things and more.
Hence the idea of the health-promoting school, and a whole government department to support it (see right). Around the country there is a growing network of health co-ordinators and sport co-ordinators to help. There is also a host of websites on food, physical activity and emotional well-being that offer practical advice, resources and ideas.
Schools in Scotland are cutting back on fatty foods, introducing healthy breakfast clubs, new lunchtime menus and tuckshops. Others are setting up walking buses, dance workshops for girls, or raising adolescents'
self-esteem and reducing their stress.
Step by step they are edging towards the recommended guidelines, as our vox pop on page 12 shows. It's now up to everyone to pull together, and it is down to heads to cast an eye (like Willie Bailey on page 4) across their schools and try to change the picture of health. As Willie's lollipop lady, Agnes, says: "There's nae point being healthy if you're deid."
Gillian Macdonald Editor of Health Check