Doctors unite to deliver ‘prescription’ for UK obesity epidemic

Recommendations include:

• Ban on fast food outlets close to schools and colleges
• Food-based standards to be mandatory in all UK hospitals
• £100m to be spent on increasing provision of weight management services
• A duty on all sugary soft drinks

Medical professionals – from surgeons and psychiatrists to paediatricians and GPs – have set out their recommendations for tackling obesity in a report published today by the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (AoMRC).

Measuring up: the medical profession's prescription for the nation's obesity crisis follows a 6-month inquiry by a steering group comprising representatives from 20 of the Royal Medical Colleges and Faculties.

The report presents an action plan for future campaigning activity, setting out 10 recommendations for healthcare professionals, local and national government, industry and schools which it believes will help tackle the nation’s obesity crisis.

Recommendations include:

• Food-based standards to be mandatory in all UK hospitals
• A ban on new fast food outlets being located close to schools and colleges
• A duty on all sugary soft drinks, increasing the price by at least 20%, to be piloted
• Traffic light food labelling to include calorie information for children and adolescents – with visible calorie indicators for restaurants, especially fast food outlets
• £100m in each of the next three years to be spent on increasing provision of weight management services across the country
• A ban on advertising of foods high in saturated fats, sugar and salt before 9pm
• Existing mandatory food- and nutrient-based standards in England to be statutory in free schools and academies

Professor Terence Stephenson, a paediatrician and chair of the AoMRC, said:

“As health professionals, we see it across all our disciplines – from the GP’s surgery to the operating table and everything in between. So it is no exaggeration to say that it is the biggest public health crisis facing the UK today. Yet too often, vested interests dub it too complex to tackle.

“It’s now time to stop making excuses and instead begin forging alliances, trying new innovations to see what works and acting quickly to tackle obesity head on - otherwise the majority of this country’s health budget could be consumed by an entirely avoidable condition.”

He added: “Today’s report marks the start of a campaign. We’ll be working with a range of expert individuals and organisations to take each of these recommendations forward. The healthcare profession has taken the step of uniting to take action – and we’re calling on others to step up and take responsibility too”.

Latest obesity statistics reveal:
• A quarter of women (24%) and just over a fifth of men (22%) in the UK are classed as obese (Eurostat)
• The UK now has the highest rate of obesity in Europe with one in three children overweight or obese by Year 6 (aged 9)
• Obesity in children under 11 has risen by over 40% in ten years
• Based on current trends, half of children will be obese or overweight by 2020
• Obesity could be costing the NHS £10 billion a year by 2050

To see a copy of the full report visit the Academy's website.