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Warning over UK 'obesity crisis'


By Natalie Marchant

Experts have warned that a "doomsday scenario" about British obesity rates set out in a report may actually underestimate the scale of crisis.

The National Obesity Forum said the UK is in danger of surpassing predictions of a 2007 report which estimated that 50 per cent of the nation would be obese by 2050.

It called on health officials to bring in hard-hitting awareness campaigns, like those for smoking, in a bid to try and halt the problem.

The forum also urged GPs to proactively discuss weight management with patients.

Half the population obese by 2050

It added that family doctors should routinely measure children's height and weight, as well as adults' weight circumferences.

The report said: "It is entirely reasonable to conclude that the determinations of the 2007 Foresight Report (i.e. that half the population might be obese by 2050 at an annual cost of nearly £50 billion), while shocking at the time, may now underestimate the scale of the problem."

National Obesity Forum chairman Professor David Haslam said: "We're now seven years on from the Foresight Report.

"Not only is the obesity situation in the UK not improving, but the doomsday scenario set out in that report might underestimate the true scale of the problem."

He called for "concerted action", saying: "There is a lot more we can be doing by way of earlier intervention and to encourage members of the public to take sensible steps to help themselves.

Obesity an international problem

"But this goes hand in hand with government leadership and ensuring responsible food and drink manufacturing and retailing.

"Initiatives such as Change4Life are very well intentioned and directed but cannot be expected to solve one of the great public health problems of our time on their own."

He cited previous hard hitting campaigns against smoking, saying that it is time to back up that work with a similar approach for obesity.

Professor Kevin Fenton, director of health and wellbeing at Public Health England (PHE), said: "Obesity is an international problem.

"It is a complex issue that requires action at national, local, family and individual level.

"Everyone has a role to play in improving the health and wellbeing of the public, and children in particular.

"PHE are committed to helping to tackle obesity through a range of approaches that support action on the local environment to make eating less and being more physically active easier."

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