The joke that is UK government policy on obesity descends further into farce.
The current UK Secretary of State for Health today suddenly woke up to the fact that the UK is the most obese country in Europe and that childhood obesity is effectively out of control.
It is now over 7 years since the government commissioned Foresight report on obesity in the UK
warned that being overweight was now the normal state in the UK and unless we urgently implemented a strategy to tackle it:
“The rate of increase in overweight and obesity, in children and adults,
is striking. By 2050, Foresight modelling indicates that 60% of adult men, 50% of adult women and about 25% of all children under 16 could be obese. Obesity increases the risk of a range of chronic diseases, particularly type 2 diabetes, stroke and coronary heart disease and also cancer and arthritis. The NHS costs attributable to overweight and obesity are projected to double to £10 billion per year by 2050. The wider costs to society and business are estimated to reach £49.9 billion per year (at today’s prices).
And yet, seven years later, the policy remains unformed and unstated and even the relatively simple part of the solution that would make the sugar manufacturers pay part of the cost of cleaning up this mess, a sugar tax, remains something that the government might do but then again might not. The SoS for health still cannot say whether it is government policy or not and if not, what might be. So while he declares it a “national emergency” he has no plan, no solution and no clue.
Meanwhile Jamie Oliver threatens to get really, really upset if the government doesn’t do something, but also without saying with any clarity what the something might be. Jamie’s solution sounds even more bizarre than no solution at all, seeming to involve going a bit “ninja” at the same time as going “underground” and ejecting the current government from power although then adding that that bit probably won’t make any difference. He does promise that the solution, whatever it is, won’t be pretty…
So this is the current state of the debate on obesity in the UK: either a) no idea what to do, to who or by when or b) a surreal pseudo-guerilla political diatribe. I do, however, agree with Jamie Oliver that the solution is unlikely to be pretty if only because the problem is decidedly ugly.