3 min read
Banning junk food ads must be the start, rather than the end, of a multipronged national effort equal to the growing size of the obesity and health challenge.
The news that the government is advancing its plans to restrict TV and online junk food advertising is the culmination of years of work by clinicians, campaigners, and people living with obesity. As the Chair of the APPG on Obesity, I’m delighted the government is taking this step in the right direction on the largest post-pandemic public health challenge.
I have seen in real time how the issue moved-up the ministerial agenda to become a top priority. Quite right given the growing scale of obesity and its tragic links to mortality from many other health issues, including Covid-19. The pandemic has undeniably exposed the profound impact of obesity on our citizens’ health and the burdens on our NHS.
Any efforts to create a healthier country must begin by supporting healthy childhoods
As I have repeatedly said, we must do more to prevent, manage, and tackle obesity to stop such suffering. Experts believe that advertising restrictions will help cut the calories that people, particularly children, consume. This is a crucial start, as I have seen too often the evidence of how difficult it can be for people who develop obesity as children to lose weight and keep it off as adults.
Any efforts to create a healthier country must begin by supporting healthy childhoods.
Such policies help create an environment where people can make healthier choices about their own weight, and I’m keen to explore further actions on this. It will be interesting to see what measures are proposed by Sir Keith Mills, the government’s new adviser on obesity and architect of the ‘Nectar Points’ system.
Of course, obesity is complex and there isn’t one single solution.
Contributory factors beyond people’s diets include education, mental health, genetics, and access to sport and leisure facilities. We need a cross-government approach that addresses all these factors, enables people to make healthier choices, prevents future obesity through education, supports people trying to lose weight, and provides access to treatment services for those who need it.
One final component of a comprehensive approach to obesity is data on which we need more detail from the Department for Health and Social Care. All government policies must be grounded in evidence, and we need to closely monitor the impact of every current measure to halt the spread of obesity.
The UK’s obesity crisis has gone on too long and the costs of inaction are only increasing. The recent announcements must be the start, rather than the end, of what must be a multipronged national effort equal to the growing size of the obesity and health challenge.
Mary Glindon is the Labour MP for North Tyneside.
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