Leading Health Experts Slate Government’s New Obesity Strategy

Leading health experts have criticised the recently published obesity strategy of the government, suggesting that incumbent Prime Minister Theresa May has failed her first major test in the job.

The strategy intended to address the obesity epidemic in Britain had already been delayed significantly, and when it was ultimately released the document met with considerable criticism over perceived omissions.

In particular, the failure of the document to restrict the marketing of unhealthy food, with a reliance on voluntary action from food manufacturers, was considered a particular sticking point.

Additionally, some experts have suggested that the final document was even watered down significantly from earlier versions of the strategy.

Prof Graham MacGregor, an NHS cardiovascular expert and chair of Action on Sugar, had observed a version of the document drawn up by David Cameron’s government, and asserts that the final release is significantly diminished in severity from this earlier text.

MacGregor spoke strongly on the consequences of the published strategy.

“She [May] came in saying ‘We are going to look after the poor and the socially deprived’ and immediately shown she’s absolutely not interested. This is a huge crisis facing the UK: we are the most obese nation in Europe; it’s going to bankrupt the NHS. Farcically, she’s gone backwards even on Cameron. It’s a national scandal. It’s been watered down in the last three weeks. To release it [while May is] on holiday when neither Jeremy Hunt nor her are there, it augurs very badly for her as prime minister. If she continues like that it’s [going to be] a disaster.”

And Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, Sir Harpal Kumar, who headed up NHS England’s cancer taskforce, accused the government of folding to lobbyists from the food and drink industry.

Commenting on the issue, Kumar suggested that the Prime Minister had completely failed in her responsibility to address the health of the nation.

“The new prime minister entered Downing Street with a pledge to tackle health inequality and to champion the needs of the individual in preference to the ‘mighty’. Obesity has a disproportionate impact on the poorest in our society … The new government faced its first test of this pledge with a chance to address inequality and to protect the next generation from diseases like cancer. This plan fails that test. There can be little doubt that preventing cancer has fallen victim to economic scaremongering and industry lobbying, despite the fact that obesity costs UK society almost £1bn every week.”

A Department of Health spokesman responded to the criticism, and indicated that monitoring the success of the strategy would be an ongoing process.

“Our obesity plan is world-leading, with more far-reaching and comprehensive measures than anything pursued by any other western government. Nevertheless, we will measure progress carefully and do not rule out further action if results are not seen.”

 

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