As the winter months drag on, staying healthy in the cold weather is at the front of our minds. With reports of pneumonia outbreaks happening in China and the Netherlands, and Norovirus numbers reaching a peak in the UK, it is easy to overlook problems that exist all year round.
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Obesity is one such problem, and it’s an issue that affects more people than you might imagine. A new damning report reveals just how much of an problem weight management is for Brits, and how this health issue is costing the economy £100 billion a year.
Obesity in the UK
There is even some debate over whether obesity should be considered a disease or a behavioural issue. However, the World Health Organization does recognise it as a disease and has even termed it an ‘epidemic’ due to the widespread nature of the issue.
The UK government has launched several health initiatives to help tackle this problem in Brits, but has shelved plans that were set to make a big difference. The implementation of a 9pm junk food advertising watershed has been postponed to 2025, as has a ban on buy-one-get-one-free deals on unhealthy foods.
Victoria Atkins, the health secretary, has said the idea is to advise people on ‘how to be healthier’ in a ‘way that is not nanny-statish’. However, a recent analysis has laid bare the fact that obesity is very much an issue in 2023.
The ominous statistics
The analysis was carried out by the Tony Blair Institute and published in The Times. The report shows that the damaging effect on national productivity caused by citizens being overweight is nine times greater than previously thought. Because this disease has the potential to have such a direct impact on the economy, it is of crucial importance that the government puts legislations in place.
The analysis highlights that not having governmental action to prevent obesity will continue to pose problems: the cost of this health issue is set to grow by another £10 billion over the next 15 years.
Henry Dimbleby, the government’s former food tsar, quit earlier this year due to the ‘insane’ inaction over the issue. He has since called for ministers to let go of plans to solve these issues with weight loss drugs and instead implement smoking-restriction-esque limits on junk food. He is expected to explain, in a speech at a Royal Society conference, that the UK will become a ‘sick and impoverished nation’ if we don’t act quickly. He is set to continue:
[The NHS] will suck all the money out of the other public services
At the same time, economic growth and tax revenue will stagnate
Hermione Dace, of the Tony Blair Institute, seems to agree with his opinion as she warns that ‘the health of the nation and our economic growth and prosperity depend’ on dealing with obesity.
Shockingly, an estimated two thirds of British adults are now overweight or obese. The Department of Health has said that they are tackling the issue through food-labelling guidelines, support for school sports, and healthy food vouchers given to disadvantaged families. But is that really going to be enough?
The Telegraph: Obesity costing Britain's economy almost £100bn a year
Sky News: Government food tsar quits blaming 'insane' inaction to tackle obesity