Government’s Obesity Strategy; Emperor’s New Clothes?

The Government’s obesity strategy must be followed up with “long-term, sustained and adequate funding and committed action,” according to Onhealth’s resident dietitian Dawn Shotton.

The call comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson attempted to tackle the obesity crisis by banning junk food ads before 9pm on TV and online, stopping shops from displaying sweets at supermarket checkouts, while also doing away with buy one get one free deals on unhealthy foodstuffs.

With the current coronavirus pandemic highlighting the adverse impact it can have on people who are overweight – Public Health England figures, as reported by Sky News, suggest clinically obese people are 40% more likely to die of Covid-19 – Johnson has moved quickly with a range of policies designed to combat obesity and the negative relationship many have with food.

“The much-anticipated new strategy couldn’t have been more welcome,” said Shotton on the subject of the Government’s obesity strategy.

“It represents an important milestone in recognition of obesity as a serious health concern that has been brewing for some time. While it is great that progress is planned, there are big gaps in the strategy which need to be looked at.

“Many of the ideas are commitments which were already made. Unfortunately, some of the detail that health workers need is missing and therefore better detail on how and when things might be done needs to follow. Otherwise, the strategy risks being the equivalent of the emperor’s new clothes.”

Shotton urged the Government to take a holistic approach when attempting to confront a societal problem which adds huge pressure on to the NHS through conditions associated with obesity.

“Detail, leadership, long-term, sustained and adequate funding and committed action is needed,” continued the dietitian.

“The gap between communities, and the inequalities which exist, drive many social issues, including obesity. These must be tackled as part of the wider approach to managing the nation’s size, otherwise, we will be missing a big piece of the jigsaw puzzle that is likely to put it right again.

“One big gap is the amount of support that currently exists to help those who are already struggling with excess weight; it just isn’t enough.

“More resources need to follow the strategy and it needs to reflect the complicated reasons why people get there in the first place.”