The first 100 days of a new government: obesity
What should the next government do in its first 100 days? It should make the commitment that tackling the UK obesity crisis is a chief priority. It should make this pledge in collaboration with the other major parties. It should set targets for reducing obesity by 2020. And it should appoint an ‘obesity tsar’ to drive this agenda forward and ensure every element of government is pulling in the right direction.
Obesity is a major drain on local and national services, with the potential to bankrupt the NHS at a time when the health service is already under unprecedented financial pressure. Obesity levels in the UK have skyrocketed in the last 20 years. One in four adults are obese, and for children, the situation is equally dire; a third of 10-11 years olds are considered overweight or obese.
Action is sorely needed. This has been recognised by Simon Stevens in his Five Year Forward View for NHS England, but plans to provide patients with diet, activity advice, pharmacotherapy and even weight-loss surgery will come to naught unless the necessary support exists. This means giving GPs the advice and incentives needed to talk to patients about the emotive subject of their weight. And it means making sure specialist weight management services are adequately provided so GPs have clear referral pathways for their patients.
The next government must appreciate the scale of the obesity problem in the UK, and in its first 100 days commit to tackling it. That means both promoting preventative methods such as healthy eating and activity, and embracing treatment options. Without this commitment, the health of the nation will continue to deteriorate and local services will remain under intolerable pressure.
Professor David Haslam is the Chairman of the National Obesity Forum, which leads National Obesity Awareness Week and is promoting a ‘National New Year’s Resolution to turn obesity around.’