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Sunday 23rd October 2016

Obesity should be tackled locally

11th November 2008

Liberal Democrat shadow secretary of state for health, Norman Lamb, argues that obesity should be tackled at local level.


While I welcome the fresh thinking from the government to tackle obesity, my fear is that dictating strategy from the centre and handing out money from Whitehall to a select few will not deliver the sort of change required.

Action is necessary because if current trends continue, 40% of Britons will be obese by 2025 and last year’s Foresight report estimates that obesity will be costing the NHS £50bn a year by 2050.

Not only will heart disease, cancer and arthritis increase but obesity has the potential to "crush the life out of the NHS."

It is a "troubling paradox" that with society getting fatter as it gets richer, the most deprived communities also have the worst levels of obesity.

We need to pilot fresh ideas and redesign communities to encourage walking and exercise with the state acting as the enabler.

But we need to move away from central government dependency on this issue.

The Liberal Democrats' vision is of a radical shift of power to local communities.

We see local health boards working with local government, with the power to raise funds locally and free to determine what is right for a specific area.

What happens in Nova Scotia may be an option, where families get tax incentives if their children enrol in activity clubs. Such incentives could be extended to those on benefits. There are lessons to be learned here for a tax funded system.

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