Boris Johnson’s New Obesity Strategy: Food Active Response

Boris Johnson’s New Obesity Strategy: Food Active Response

The COVID-19 pandemic has illustrated how important health and wellbeing is to us all, thereby driving conversations at a national level on how we can improve our health – including overweight and obesity – to help build resilience in our communities.


However, our weight status is not solely dependent on our personal choices – far from it. There are many other significant factors that determine a person’s weight – including where we live, how much money we earn, who we socialise with, what marketing we are exposed to, our family history and many more factors[1]. If we are to have any chance of reducing the prevalence of overweight and obesity across the life course, the Government must address the multiple drivers through progressive new policies addressing the wider determinants of health, not just through individual responsibility.

Today the Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced a new raft of measures to “get the nation fit and healthy, protect themselves against COVID-19 and protect the NHS.” Measures include a ban on TV and online adverts for food high in fat, sugar and salt before 9pm; end of deals like ‘buy one get one free’ on unhealthy food high in salt, sugar and fat; calories to be displayed on menus to help people make healthier choices when eating out – while alcoholic drinks could soon have to list hidden ‘liquid calories’ and finally a new campaign to help people lose weight, get active and eat better after COVID-19 “wake-up call”.

Read our response to today’s plans below:

Matthew Ashton, Lead Director of Public Health at Food Active said:

“We welcome Boris Johnson’s new obesity strategy announcement today. We are very pleased to see the Prime Minister recognising the need for a whole systems approach and not just relying on the role of individual responsibility to facilitate behaviour change – something myself and other North West Directors of Public Health called on in our Letter to the Prime Minister last week[2].

 

This shows that the Government are serious about reducing the prevalence of overweight and obesity in children, young people and families and building a healthier nation. Now we would like to see these promises turn into swift action and the Government to continue to build on these plans with further policies and interventions to address other areas of the obesity puzzle.”

 

Alex Holt, Programme Lead at Food Active:

“We welcome the Government’s first steps towards effectively addressing the UK’s obesogenic environment today. The introduction of a world-leading policy to ban the advertising of less healthy food and drink before 9pm on TV and online is fantastic news and something we have campaigned on for a number of years. We are also delighted to see that the promotion of foods high in fat, salt and sugar will be restricted by price and place and welcome confirmation of the calorie labelling in the out of home sector – we now hope that work is done to support all businesses to include this information on their menus.

 

However, whilst these measures are certainly bold and ambitious there are more pieces of the complex jigsaw that need to be put in place to make a significant difference to levels of obesity, including a focus on the early years and scaling up of local powers and sustainable funding for local public health. Whilst we realise some areas of today’s strategy will require further consultation, we would like to see concrete timeframes attached to these plans. “


[1] https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/287937/07-1184x-tackling-obesities-future-choices-report.pdf

[2] http://www.foodactive.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Food-Active-Letter-to-PM-21.7.201.pdf

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