Other proposals include enshrining the Public Health Responsibility Deal in law, shifting it away from a voluntary framework, and establishing a cross-departmental government task force on obesity.
The group should encompass schools, employers, local authorities, government, manufacturers, retailers, restaurants and health professionals, the ‘Careless eating costs lives’ report recommends.
The paper calls for the creation of a five- to 10-year obesity strategy. It suggests that all government policies should be assessed against an ‘obesity test’ to determine what effects they would have on eating behaviour and public health.
‘Fat-man of Europe’
“Piecemeal solutions have been tried in the past and shown to be inadequate,” said Julia Manning, ceo of independent think tank 2020health. “According to the WHO [World Health Organisation] we are the fat-man of Europe and this has severe consequences for us as a nation.
“Unless we have a cross-cutting strategy that everyone from the government down takes seriously, obesity will continue to rise and be devastating for both individuals and the nation.
“Our research has shown that hand-in-hand with obesity is widespread confusion over what constitutes healthy eating and a rise in malnutrition. We have a culture of excess and but there is no single reason for our obesity problem, and it’s fallacious to suggest otherwise.”
Commenting on the paper, Katharine Teague, head of advocacy, AB Sugar, said: “We were particularly interested in 2020health’s suggestion that a cross-departmental taskforce be explored in order to tackle the complex issue of obesity.
“Echoing other stakeholders, particularly those in the healthcare profession, we would urge policy-makers to further consider how this may work in practice to bring about a more integrated approach to tackling obesity across government.
“AB Sugar looks forward to continuing to work collaboratively with all voices in the debate to tackle pressing lifestyle and public health issues.”
Proposals made by the report include:
- introduce tax incentives for larger businesses to make healthy provisions, such as access to occupational health, nutritionist, gym facilities, available to smaller firms;
- introduce licensing for fast food outlets to control the location and numbers of outlets in a local community; practical cookery skills and clear food education to be a compulsory part of the school curriculum for pupils up to the end of key stage 3 (age 14);
- clear disclosure of calories per items on restaurant and cafe menus which adhere to a defined standard for font size, formatting, contrast and layout of menus;
- the ban on advertising of unhealthy foods aimed at children should be extended to day-time TV, from 7am to 9pm;
- a review needs to be undertaken of the economic and societal impacts of a hypothecated tax on a range of food and drink contents at levels deemed harmful to health;
- increase awareness, coordination and reach of the government’s Healthy Start voucher scheme;
- extend voucher scheme to incentivise those who become active partners in their health by quitting smoking, reducing weight, walking a set number of steps;
- improved screening and normalisation of discussion about diet and weight at medical appointments.