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Sustain welcomes new vision to turn the tide on obesity and healthy weight
The Obesity Health Alliance's new healthy weight strategy sets out a bold new vision for the UK Government to lead the world in reversing the rise in obesity rates.
The Obesity Health Alliance (OHA), a coalition including Sustain's Children's Food Campaign, the British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK, Diabetes UK and medical royal colleges, has has called on the Government to take action to reverse the persistently high levels of excess weight in the population. No country in the world has managed this across the population to date.
The OHA brought together a group of leading clinicians, academic and policy specialists to assess the evidence related to the multiple factors that influence healthy weight. Their report, ‘Turning the Tide: A 10-year Healthy Weight Strategy’ emphasises that change is possible, with a system-wide approach that includes multiple policies that work together to both change the environment and provide support to individuals.
The report sets out a long-term agenda for action with 30 policy recommendations, starting with commitments in the new Health & Social Care Bill including a 9pm watershed on junk food adverts on TV (initially committed to by the Government in 2018) and removing paid-for adverts online. These should be implemented in full and without any further delays or watering down.
As a next step the Government should use their forthcoming Food White Paper to address other drivers of poor diet such as bringing in a reformulation levy on the food industry to incentivise the production of healthier food and drink. The OHA also recommends that the Government builds on existing policy approaches by phasing out other forms of influential junk food marketing including child-friendly packaging and sports sponsorship.
Barbara Crowther, Children's Food Campaign Co-ordinator and member of the OHA's policy group said:
"We hope this meticulously researched and comprehensive report will support the Government's long term thinking around halving child obesity by 2030. It highlights several areas - from actions during infancy and early years to the role of packaging, sponsorship deals, fiscal reforms and remaining loopholes in junk food marketing regulations - that we believe ought to be part of the Government's future recipe for a healthy food future."
Professor Dame Anne Johnson, chair of the expert working group advising the OHA said:
“The majority of people in the UK have a weight classed as overweight or obese and this will continue without ongoing and comprehensive action from Government. We reviewed the evidence across the multiple factors that influence healthy weight, and if the Government commits to bold new policies, we can turn the tide, reducing obesity and greatly improve our nation’s health."
Professor Linda Bauld OBE, academic lead for the project said:
“Turning the tide on obesity is achievable. Over the same three decades in which obesity has continued to rise, UK smoking rates have been halved - achieved through a series of comprehensive government strategies. ‘Turning the Tide’ sets out a clear evidence-based agenda for policies and interventions to bring about similar success and reduce the impact of excess weight on a range of diseases.”
The report also highlights the pervasiveness and damage caused by weight related stigma and calls on the Government, the NHS, the media and employers to play their part in eradicating weight stigma across all settings.
Obesity increases the risk of developing a range of chronic conditions, including type-2 diabetes, heart disease, liver disease and cancer. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the health risks of obesity sharply into focus with clear evidence that people with obesity have an increased risk of severe disease, hospitalisation, and death from COVID-19.5 But this health burden is not equal. Obesity prevalence is higher among disadvantaged groups locking in poor health across the generations.
Sustain is an active member of the Obesity Health Alliance, and the Obesity Health Alliance is also an associate member of Sustain and active partner of the Children's Food Campaign.