Coronavirus: Obesity link reignites calls for access to healthy foods

By Michelle Perrett

- Last updated on GMT

New calls for action over obesity with Covid-19 cases
New calls for action over obesity with Covid-19 cases

Related tags: COVID-19

The link between obesity and deprivation amid COVID-19 has been confirmed in the latest report from Public Health England (PHE), entitled Disparities in the risk and outcomes of COVID-19.

The report has confirmed that the impact of COVID-19 has replicated existing health inequalities and, in some cases, increased them. It revealed that a higher BMI (body mass index) was more associated with a positive COVID-19 diagnosis. 

The report also quoted statistics that showed 7.7% of patients critically ill in intensive care units (with confirmed COVID-19) were morbidly obese compared with 2.9% of the general population, according to Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre (ICNARC) data to 21 May 2020. 

The same report also highlighted the increased risk of people from black and Asian ethnic groups to die from COVID-19.


Last month, there were calls for stricter regulations on the production and sale of foods high in fat, salt and sugar after evidence from medical groups linked more severe illness and death from the Coronavirus to obesity​. 

Campaign group Action on Sugar sent a list of demands to the Government. 

Katharine Jenner, campaign director of Action on Sugar and Action on Salt, Queen Mary University of London, said this latest report showed the “devastating effect​” inequalities had in widening health outcomes – in this case for COVID-19.


“Before the PHE review, we already knew that those living with obesity had an increased risk of adverse outcomes from COVID-19, yet no action was being taken to address it. In our evidence-based report, released last week, we provided Boris Johnson with a plan of action to support and treat those living with obesity and related health conditions, which disproportionately affects those from disadvantaged groups,” ​she said.  

However, she admitted there was an element of personal responsibility in both the treatment and prevention of obesity. 

“This can only be achieved with equitable access to healthy, affordable food – this is far from a reality for millions of Britons,”​ she added. 

“It is even more critical than ever for the food and drink industry, including the hospitality sector, to stop flooding us with unhealthy food options to keep us healthy – both now and in the future.”

Related topics: COVID-19

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