Experts urge Jeremy Hunt to put prevention at the heart of the Spring Budget

Experts urge Jeremy Hunt to put prevention at the heart of the Spring Budget

Sixty of the UK’s most senior health experts, including Food Active and other partners , have written to the chancellor calling for him to put public health and prevention at the heart of the Spring Budget to support the economy.

In a letter to the chancellor, published in The Times, a coalition of doctors, scientists, health charities and food campaigners have highlighted the levels of poor health impacting the country and ultimately damaging the economy, “from the size and strength of our labour market, to productivity, to growth and GDP”.

The impact of unhealthy food options, alcohol and tobacco has led to the UK having some of the highest rates of preventable disease in the world, including type 2 diabetes, cancers and heart disease. Four out of the top five risk factors for poor health are related to diet specifically.

This poor health not only impacts us individually but also comes at a cost. Research from Frontier Economics has estimated that the total economic impact from overweight and obesity in the UK is £98 billion per year. In the letter, coordinated by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), the experts highlight data from the Office for National Statistics, which shows 2.8 million people are currently out of work due to long-term illness.

Despite this challenge, we have an opportunity, the letter argues, to rethink how we approach public health and ensure that we see “health intervention as an investment, not a cost”. They highlight the arguments put forward by the Time Health Commission’ recent report. Their ten recommendations to ‘save the NHS’ also focussed on prevention of dietary disease and obesity, including calls for:

  • Expanding the sugary drinks tax, and also taxing high salt
  • Implementing a pre-watershed ban on junk food advertising
  • Reducing cartoons on packaging to minimise children’s exposure to unhealthy food

The experts are calling for the chancellor to “issue a formal call for evidence as part of the 2024 Spring Budget, on financial and non-financial health policy options that help make it easier for everyone to lead healthy lives – by shaping the environments they grow, learn, work and play in.”

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