With interest in public health at an all-time high due to Covid-19, the news coming from Downing Street last week is to be warmly welcomed. If you missed it, various reports have indicated that Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, is ready to declare war on obesity by ditching his long-standing views on government intervention in the area.
The revelation follows the Prime Minister’s battle with Covid-19 that saw him hospitalised and in ICU. With statistics showing that 1 in 3 people across the United Kingdom are now classified as clinically obese, we at Sportside welcome this newfound commitment and emphasis to tackling the public health epidemic once we have successfully overcome Covid-19.
Concerns over Covid-19 and obesity do not operate independently of one another. A major study conducted in Glasgow last week has found that those who are classified as obese are twice as likely to require hospital treatment if they contract the virus. While an Oxford University report has revealed that those who are classified as morbidly obese are three times as likely to die from the virus as those who are classed as being in good health.
Of course, it is important to note that any strategic changes being implemented will take time to embed themselves into the psyche of the public, but it is to be welcomed that the Government are placing an emphasis on intervention.
Logic would dictate that any strategy to combat obesity must be multi-faceted. For example, it cannot include plans to increase awareness of healthy eating while excluding raising awareness of the benefits of regular exercise, and vice versa.
As part of the Government’s strategy to ease lockdown measures, people have been allowed and even encouraged to exercise more than once a day. One might wonder whether this is the beginning of a strategy to encourage people to get out and exercise more frequently – after all, we have been trapped at home for almost two months now. The thought of exercising may now be appealing to those who previously would not have been inclined to do so.
For too long we have accepted that obesity is a silent killer, and for too long governments across the world have turned a blind eye to the epidemic. However, Mr Johnson does have a track record of trying to get people more active – those of us who live in or have visited London can’t have failed to notice the number of ‘Boris Bikes’ that are available to hire.
In all successful campaigns, there tends to be a bulletproof plan of action showing how and when the proposed objectives will be achieved – this can be no different. If the Government and Prime Minister truly are committed to tackling this head on, then they must commit to working with all parties concerned.
That means having a national conversation on how we view our relationship with food and exercise. It must engage and involve young people with the opportunity to forge a different path, and it must be a truly rounded strategy. That means engaging, at an early stage, with public health bodies, with sports governing bodies and with educational institutions.
If we, as a country, are truly going to address the scourge of obesity, we must work together to do so.