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Tuesday 25th October 2016

What's the chances of cutting obesity?

7th January 2009

Alice Miles suggests the chances of cutting obesity amounts to a big fat zero.


The new government weight loss campaign, made by the creators of Wallace & Gromit, is aimed at ordinary people.

Campaigns such as Change4Life have the greatest effect if a large number of low-risk people change their behaviour, and far greater than if the smaller number of high risk people do.

While there are benefits to more low risk people eating slightly better in terms of savings to the NHS, the benefit to the individual is small.

For that reason, this £75m campaign - I suspect - will fail.

The problem is that people hate being told what to do by the government. That is something the government, famously outlined by one former health secretary John Reid, clearly acknowledged.

However, Alan Johnson thinks differently.

And it has been shown that if the government doesn’t act on public health, nobody else does either.

Doctors and the government have been warning about obesity for decades but in that time the nation's waistline has “swelled with the list of public-health campaigns.”

The government warns that if present trends continue, obesity levels will have reached 60% for men, 50% for women and 25% for children.

We must improve our public health, otherwise the NHS will become unaffordable so we now have not just a public health campaign but “a lifestyle revolution”.

I hope this campaign doesn’t fail; but I think it will.

When that happens the government should be ready to legislate to force a change in behaviour.


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