Dr Charmaine Griffiths
Chief Executive, British Heart Foundation
Before the COVID-19 pandemic took hold last year, the UK’s booming obesity rates were one of the biggest public health challenges the country faced.
Around 27% of the UK’s adult population has obesity and a further 35% have excess weight. Our nation’s obesity challenge starts early in life. It is a sad fact that if a child has obesity, then they are more likely to grow up to be an adult with obesity, which puts them at greater risk of developing diabetes, as well as having a heart attack or stroke. This situation has remained largely unaddressed for years.
Once the pandemic hit, the need to address obesity came into sharper focus as it emerged that it was associated with a higher risk of mortality from COVID-19 – the Prime Minister’s own experience is reported to have become a catalyst for the Government’s obesity strategy which was launched last summer.
It has never been more important for our country to be healthier and more resilient.
Reducing obesity rates
The Government’s strategy contains a raft of vital measures for reducing obesity rates. It being fully implemented will be crucial to improving heart and circulatory health. It has never been more important for our country to be healthier and more resilient.
Important legislation is now coming out of the Government’s strategy. A 9pm watershed on promoting junk food on television, as well as robust restrictions on promoting high fat, sugary and salty foods online will do much to reduce rates of heart and circulatory diseases. It is critical that these are passed into law without being weakened.
Research also shows it pays dividends to encourage industry to reformulate foods. A recent study by Queen Mary University found that Public Health England’s Salt Reduction programme could lead to nearly 200,000 fewer adults developing heart disease and £1.64 billion of healthcare cost savings by 2050.
The COVID-19 pandemic has put obesity back into focus, and it is now essential that the Government follows through on all its commitments as we emerge from the pandemic.