North West Directors of Public Health urge Prime Minister to address the causes, not just the symptoms ahead of obesity announcement

by Beth Bradshaw | 22 July, 2020 8:00 am

On Wednesday 22nd July, a group of eight North West Directors of Public Health have written to the Prime Minister, co-ordinated by Food Active, to urge him to ensure that the forthcoming announcement on obesity includes measures that create an environment that makes the healthy choice, the easy choice.

Reports from Number 10 have suggested the Government will be launching a new ‘Better Health’ national campaign to encourage the public to loose weight. The campaign comes after emerging evidence suggests obesity has resulted in severe complications when contracting COVID-19, such as hospitalisation and ICU treatment[1][1].

However, there are concerns that the new strategy may only be treating the symptoms, and not the causes of obesity. The local public health directors emphasise the need to address the wider determinants of health – including where we live, how much money we earn, who we socialise with and what marketing we are exposed to – and avoid placing all the responsibility of loosing weight at the door of their local communities and the UK population as a whole.

The North West has levels of children experiencing overweight and obesity higher than the national average[2][2], a pattern which is also similar in adulthood too[3][3].

The news of a national campaign is welcomed in the letter, on the condition that it is bolstered by measures that create an environment that support individuals to make changes in their behaviour, making it easy for people to make the healthy choice. Without this, the letter states “a national campaign encouraging weight loss would be entirely ineffective and a waste of taxpayers’ money.”

With the conversation in Government rapidly revolving around how we build back better following the COVID-19 pandemic, the signatories urge Boris Johnson to ensure that the forthcoming announcement on obesity includes measures not only encourages people to eat well, but provides an environment which allows them to do so.

The letter has been co-ordinated by Food Active and signed by eight Directors of Public Health from the region, including:


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

“We are pleased to see the Prime Minister recognising the importance of addressing overweight and obesity at a national level. The COVID-19 pandemic has acted as a much needed catalyst to get the Government to wake up and address this very real issue of overweight and obesity, and the burden this places on local people across the country. 


There is only so much we can do at a local level, and in the face of huge budget cuts to public health grants, we need all the help we can get to ensure we support our communities with an environment conducive to healthy eating.


We just hope the strategy doesn’t solely place all the responsibility at the door of local people, and includes measures which address the many factors that influence people’s lifestyle choices and behaviours.”


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To press enquiries: Beth Bradshaw,[12], 07955004787


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