A health challenge we cannot afford to ignore

Obesity health challenge

New research suggests that around 7 in 10 people in the UK – 42 million people – could be overweight by 2040. The shocking figures, from Cancer Research UK, were published in May, just after the decision by the UK government to delay implementation of key aspects of its obesity strategy. In blogs such as Rethinking how we tackle obesity we have argued that we cannot simply carry on as we are when it comes to physical health and wellbeing. This analysis provides further compelling evidence that obesity is a health challenge we cannot afford to ignore or tackle in a half-hearted way.

What the research suggests

The research published by Cancer Research UK suggests that:

  • more than 21 million UK adults will be obese by 2040, 36% of the UK adult population (36%).
  • if current overweight and obesity trends continue, the number of UK adults who are overweight or obese may reach around 70% of the population – 42 million people
  • the number of people who are obese could overtake the number who are a healthy weight in the UK by 2040 – and in England by 2030

According to the cancer charity, obesity increases the risk of at least 13 different types of cancer, and around 22,800 cases of cancer in the UK each year are due to being overweight or obese.

These projections should serve as a wake-up call to the government about the state of our nation’s health. Ministers mustn’t keep kicking the can down the road when it comes to tackling the obesity crisis – delaying measures that will lead to healthier food options. I urge them to revisit this decision and take bold action on obesity, the second biggest preventable risk factor for cancer in the UK.

Michelle Mitchell, chief executive of Cancer Research UK

Campaigning for change

There are, of course, many individuals and organisations campaigning for a change in our approach to healthy living, sustainability, food and diet.

Sustain is one such organisation. It describes itself as “a powerful alliance of organisations and communities working together for a better system of food, farming and fishing, and cultivating the movement for change.”

It was one of many voices critical of what it called the government’s U-turn on childhood obesity in May, which involves delaying the introduction of “vital measures” such as a 9pm watershed and online ban on junk food adverts, as well as restrictions on junk food multi-buys that make families spend and consume more. Its Children’s Food Campaign includes a call for better-quality food and improved food teaching for children in schools.

School Food Matters is another organisation campaigning for change.

It is a highly vocal advocate not just for children’s access to healthy, sustainable food during their time at school but also for better food education. It began as a grassroots campaign by a London parent in 2007, shocked by the school food offered to her children.

We run fully funded food education programmes for children, young people and teachers to ensure every child understands the impact of the food they eat on their health and the environment, and has the food skills to live a healthy life

from the School Food Matters website

Life-Based Learning and the obesity challenge

Life-Based Learning is an approach to education and development for children and young people in which the life challenges that we all face become the focus of a fully rounded, life-based approach to learning. Tackling obesity – and promoting children’s physical health and wellbeing more generally – is one such challenge.

Life-Based Learning priorities children’s physical and mental wellbeing. This includes opportunities for regular sport and physical activity, and an emphasis on food education and healthy eating.

Read More About Healthy Eating

Image at the head of this article by Rudy and Peter Skitterians from Pixabay.

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