UK faces an obesity epidemic crisis as well as rising food poverty

Whatever government the UK gets on June 8th we should all be tightening our belts – that is if health professionals hold sway.

As the UK’s general election campaign reaches a mid-way point the Obesity Health Alliance have urged the next government to ‘get to grips’ with the country’s obesity epidemic.

Failure to do this, the Alliance says, risks plunging health services into irreversible financial trouble – the direct cost of obesity to the National Health Service is £5 billion a year, with the true economic cost to wider society being an oversized £27 billion.

Latest figures estimate 62% of all adults are overweight and obese (of these 26% are obese) and as rates tend to increase with age they are highest among the 55-64 age group. However, around a third of young adults aged 16-24 are either obese of overweight.

The number of overweight and obese children is at its highest level ever in the UK. More than one in five children are overweight or obese in their first year of primary school and this rises to more than one in three by the time they leave.

Actions the next Government should take

The Alliance calls on the next government to take actions such as ensuring sugar, saturated fat and salt are reduced in everyday foods; closing loopholes in junk food marketing regulations; and implementing and evaluating the Soft Drinks Industry Levy.

Professor John Wass from the Royal College of Physicians said: “We have come together to issue a stark warning to the next Government that they simply can’t afford to ignore the spiralling obesity epidemic. Without strong measures to tackle obesity we are condemning our NHS to failure.”

The Obesity Health Alliance represents more than 40 health charities, campaign groups, medical colleges and health professionals. Overweight and obesity is linked to diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular and liver disease.

UK foodbank use continues to rise

As well as poor diet, food poverty continues to rise in the UK. The latest statistics from the Trussell Trust network of 420 foodbanks, show that the number of 3-day emergency food supplies given to people by its foodbanks rose between April 2016-March 31st 2017 to reach nearly 1.2 million, with 436,000 of these going to children.

The Trussell Trust report, published at the end of April, gives evidence on reasons why people need to use foodbanks, the top two being low income and benefit delays – in particular, the Trussell Trust research singles out issues with the rollout and administration of the new Universal Credit benefit.