Over the last week obesity has barely left the headlines. Thanks to comments from Boris Johnson about the role of taxes on unhealthy drinks, to new statistics showing the role excess weight plays in increasing cancer risk, the media has covered has covered discussions on obesity from all angles with a range of different commentators offering their views.
Inevitably the views of commentators were polarised with those of us working in health arguing the Government needs to do more versus those throwing around their ‘nanny-state’ criticisms and saying health is down to personal responsibility. But what do the general public actually think about the issue?
We conducted polling among over 2,000 adults in June, where 86% of respondents felt that childhood obesity is a serious problem with 80% worried about the impact of obesity on the NHS. This is hardly surprising considering nearly a quarter of children have a weight classified as overweight or obese when they start school, rising to one in three when they leave primary school.
So who do the public think should act to help children live a healthier life? The vast majority (76%) say they are supportive of Government measures to reduce obesity. Given this includes plans to restrict junk food adverts on TV and online before 9pm, limit promotions in supermarkets and introduce calorie information on labels, it would appear that the public do not think the Government should avoid action – despite what certain politicians and libertarians like to say.
In addition, 69% agree the new Prime Minister should continue to prioritise reducing childhood obesity. This sends a clear message to the incoming Government that rather than delaying, or even rowing back from successful policies like the soft drinks industry levy, they should push on with implementing the evidence based policies that will make it easier for everyone to live a healthier life.