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Anti-obesity alliance lobbies PM Liz Truss over touted HFSS ad U-turn

By John Glenday | Reporter

September 22, 2022 | 4 min read

A grouping of 70 health organizations, including the British Medical Association, British Heart Foundation and Cancer Research UK, have united to urge new prime minister Liz Truss not to abandon measures to promote children’s health.

UK government

Prime minister Liz Truss must honor commitments to halve childhood obesity by 2030 and improve poor dietary practices

The Obesity Health Alliance has penned an open letter warning against any move to renege on prior promises after a review of the government’s much-criticized obesity strategy in England was announced.

The decision is said to be guided by a desire to scrap a sugar levy on soft drinks, as well as a ban on junk food advertising before the 9pm watershed. Both policies were designed to ease the burden on the NHS, but face being undone or watered down.

Health has become a top priority for Truss, who must tackle an NHS burdened by a massive patient backlog while honoring commitments to halve childhood obesity by 2030 and improve poor dietary practices.

Dr David Strain, British Medical Association Board of Science chair, said: “It’s deeply disappointing to see the new government threaten to throw away the progress we have made tackling obesity without any evidence it would do anything to help alleviate the impact of the cost of living crisis. This sort of short-term thinking threatens not only the government’s target to halve childhood obesity by 2030, but the NHS itself as obesity-related preventable illnesses mount up in the absence of any discernible strategy to prevent them.”

Close to two-thirds of British adults are now classed as overweight or obese, with related health implications costing the NHS around £6.1bn per annum amid a corresponding rise in cancer, diabetes and heart conditions.

Dr Charmaine Griffiths, British Heart Foundation chief executive, added: “If these rumored reversals to vital obesity policies turn out to be true, then this represents a dangerous step backward in addressing a major public health crisis.

“Health and wealth are two sides of the same coin. Dropping such measures won’t help hard-up families deal with the cost of living crisis, but unless action is taken ill health caused by obesity will continue to put a strain on our economy and pile greater pressure on the NHS in the future – harming productivity and costing everyone more in the long run.”

The action follows a survey of 2,000 adults carried out by YouGov on behalf of Cancer Research UK, which put support for junk food ad restrictions at 60%.

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