Government policies should pass an ‘obesity test’

By Caroline SCOTT-THOMAS contact

- Last updated on GMT

The UK has been dubbed 'the fat man of Europe'
The UK has been dubbed 'the fat man of Europe'

Related tags: Nutrition

All new UK government policies should be considered in the context of rising obesity rates in an effort to reverse the trend, urges a report from independent think tank 2020health.

The report, titled Careless Eating Costs Lives​, calls for a cross-sector five- to ten-year plan to address the public health, economic, employment and social costs of obesity. It also suggests the formation of a cross-departmental government task force, charged with drawing up plans to deal with obesity.

Specific recommendations include extending the ban on advertising unhealthy foods aimed at children to daytime TV, as well as after the 9pm watershed; reviewing the potential effects of a tax on food and drink contents deemed to be harmful to health; and recognising companies’ positive response to the Responsibility Deal​ and turning the deal into a legislative framework to be phased in over the next five to ten years.

Chief executive of 2020health Julia Manning said in a statement: “Piecemeal solutions have been tried in the past and shown to be inadequate. According to the WHO we are the fat-man of Europe and this has severe consequences for us as a nation. Unless we have a cross-cutting strategy that everyone from the government down takes seriously, obesity will continue to rise and be devastating for both individuals and the nation.”

A recent study published in The Lancet​ suggests that the UK has one of the highest rates of obesity and overweight in Europe. It found that more than a quarter of UK children, 67% of men and 57% of women were either overweight or obese.

‘Confusion’ about healthy eating

Manning added: “Our research has shown that hand-in-hand with obesity is widespread confusion over what constitutes healthy eating and a rise in malnutrition. We have a culture of excess and but there is no single reason for our obesity problem, and it’s fallacious to suggest otherwise.”

The organisation also called for more research into food production, the efficacy of taxes, and the role of the environment and individual circumstances in tackling obesity.

The report was funded by an unrestricted educational grant from AB Sugar, although 2020health says it retained full editorial control.

Commenting on the report, AB Sugar’s head of advocacy, Katharine Teague, said: “We were particularly interested in 2020health’s suggestion that a cross-departmental taskforce be explored in order to tackle the complex issue of obesity. Echoing other stakeholders, particularly those in the healthcare profession, we would urge policy-makers to further consider how this may work in practice to bring about a more integrated approach to tackling obesity across government.”

The full report is available online here​.

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