Around two-thirds (63%) of adults are above a healthy weight, and half of them are living with obesity. We have 1 in 3 children leaving primary school who are already overweight or living with obesity with 1 in 5 living with obesity. Obesity prevalence is highest amongst the most deprived groups in society. Children in the most deprived parts of the country are more than twice as likely to be obese as their peers living in the richest areas. This is sowing the seeds of adult diseases and health inequalities in early childhood.
Obesity is associated with reduced life expectancy. It is a risk factor for a range of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular, type 2 diabetes, at least 12 kinds of cancer, liver and respiratory disease, and it can highly impact on mental health. There is consistent evidence that people who are overweight or living with obesity who contract coronavirus (COVID-19) are more likely to be admitted to intensive care unit and, sadly to die from COVID-19 compared to those of a healthy body weight status.
Lots of people who are overweight or living with obesity want to lose weight but find it hard. Many people have tried to lose weight but struggle in the face of endless prompts to eat – on TV and on the high street. When we eat out, we have little information about how many calories are in the food we are offered. Helping people to achieve and maintain a healthy weight is one of the most important things we can do to improve our nation’s health.
COVID-19 and obesity
It is common knowledge that living with obesity reduces life expectancy and increases the chance of serious diseases such as cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. With these underlined health issues as a result of obesity, many people in such category have been exposed to the risks of dying from COVID-19. According to Public Health England’s (PHE’s) recent assessment, new evidence in the UK and internationally, indicates that being overweight or living with obesity is associated with an increased risk of COVID-19 hospitalisation, severe symptoms, advanced levels of treatment such as mechanical ventilation or admission to Intensive Care Units and death. These risks increase progressively as an individual’s body mass index (BMI) increases.
The report also indicates that BAME communities and those living in deprived areas are at greater risk of dying from COVID-19. Part of this risk may relate to obesity. Obesity is more common in people living in deprived areas and people from the BAME communities are susceptible to obesity-related diseases. Excess weight is one of the few modifiable factors for COVID-19 and so supporting people to achieve a healthier weight will be crucial to keeping people fit and well as we move forward. Obesity puts pressure on our health services, and it is estimated that overweight and obesity related conditions across the UK are costing the NHS £6.1 billion each year. Going into this winter, you can play your part to protect the NHS and save lives.
These undermentioned points will go a long way in alleviating obesity problems:
- Introducing a new campaign – a call to action for everyone who is overweight to take steps to move towards a healthier weight, with evidence-based tools and apps with advice on how to lose weight and keep it off
- Working to expand weight management services available through the NHS, so more people get the support they need to lose weight
- Publishing a 4-nation public consultation to gather views and evidence on our current ‘traffic light’ label to help people make healthy food choices
- Introducing legislation to require large out-of-home food businesses, including restaurants, cafes and takeaways with more than 250 employees, to add calorie labels to the food they sell
- Consulting on our intention to make companies provide calorie labelling on alcohol
- Legislating to end the promotion of foods high in fat, sugar or salt (HFSS) by restricting volume promotions such as buy one get one free, and the placement of these foods in prominent locations intended to encourage purchasing, both online and in physical stores in England
- Banning the advertising of HFSS products being shown on TV and online before 9pm and holding a short consultation as soon as possible on how we introduce a total HFSS advertising restriction online.
The campaign aims to reach millions of people who need to lose weight, encouraging them to make behaviour changes to eat better and move more to prevent or delay the onset of serious diseases. This will be supported by a 12-week weight loss plan app that people living with obesity can use to develop healthier eating habits, get more active and lose weight.