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Organisations representing nearly every doctor in the UK have united in a single campaign to tackle rising levels of obesity, reports BBC health.
The campaign will begin by reviewing the case for more and higher fat taxes, promoting exercise, restricting food advertising and other measures. There was criticism of sponsorship of the Olympics by fast food firms, which is seen as sending “the wrong message”. The Department of Health said it was taking action to combat obesity. A spokesman for the campaign, Prof Terence Stephenson, said the government’s current strategy of “partnering” food firms in order to tackle obesity “might be seen as counter-intuitive”.
Almost a quarter of adults in the UK are thought to be obese (this figure is on the rise) and some predictions suggest half of children will be obese or overweight by 2020, with Prof Stephenson saying they were “storing up problems for the future”.
“This is a huge problem for the UK. It’s much bigger than HIV was, much bigger than swine flu.”
The Royal Medical Colleges and Faculties represent some 200,000 doctors across all specialities, from GPs to paediatricians and surgeons to psychiatrists. They have described their campaign as an “unprecedented” union – as part of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (AoMRC) – on an issue of public health.
AoMRC spokesman Prof Stephenson said: “Every doctor I’ve ever spoken to feels obesity is a huge problem for the UK population.”
He said a united voice had “more of a chance” of tacking obesity.
The first phase of the campaign will try to find out what works. It will review evidence for diets, exercise, taxation, minimum pricing, changing advertising and food labelling, which medical procedures work and how children are educated. Recommendations could target food companies who sponsor major sporting events – such as the Olympics – and fast food outlets which operate close to schools. Prof Stephenson said allowing companies such as Coca-Cola and McDonalds to sponsor the London 2012 Olympics “sends the wrong message.”
“They clearly wouldn’t be spending the money if they didn’t benefit from being associated with successful athletes,” he said.