Boris Johnson plans to tackle obesity following own battle with COVID-19

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will reportedly ramp up strategies to drive down obesity rates after suggesting his own weight was a key reason why he fell ill with COVID-19Prime Minister Boris Johnson will reportedly ramp up strategies to drive down obesity rates – prompting a campaign group to  call for fast action. 

According to The Times, Johnson told senior ministers he has ‘changed his mind’ and is keen to lead a new strategy to help tackle obesity.

The report suggests this is a result of Johnson believing his own weight contributed to his stint in hospital after contracting coronavirus.

When he was admitted, Johnson weighed more than 17 stone.

This comes as research shows that being obese can double the risk of needing hospital treatment if one catches the virus.

Speaking earlier this month, health secretary Matt Hancock said ‘age profile and factors like obesity’ may help to explain why the UK has been so affected. Around one third of adults are classified as obese across the UK.

Government must ‘get on its bike’

Professor Graham MacGregor from Queen Mary University is chair of Action on Sugar and Action on Salt.

He says Johnson has the ‘responsibility’ to ensure obesity now remains on the public health agenda.

‘Whilst we welcome the news that Boris Johnson is planning a ‘war on obesity’ after his own touch-and-go battle with coronavirus was exacerbated by him being overweight, this particular public health crisis should have never been taken off the agenda in the first place,’ he said.

‘The evidence is clearly there. Being obese doubles the risk of needing hospital treatment for coronavirus. The government must ‘get on its bike’ and act now.

‘The food industry is feeding us heavily discounted and promoted processed food and drink, full of salt, fat and sugar, giving us little feeling of satiation, which greatly increases our calorie intake. Millions of families face poverty and food insecurity and are unable to access a nutritionally adequate diet.’

He calls for the government to:

  • Ensure the food industry only discounts, promotes and advertises healthy food and drink
  • Force the food industry to reformulate food and drink with less salt, sugar and calories
  • Ensure NHS Trusts provide key workers with the highest nutritional quality food
  • Give direct advice to a very concerned public about how to identify their risk, exercise and lose weight safely.

Professor MacGregor adds: ‘Now that Mr Johnson has direct experience of this vicious virus, we ask him to protect the most vulnerable people in our society. This will create a more resilient Great Britain, both now and in the future. The responsibility is his.’

War on obesity

Dr Saul Konviser from the charity Dental Wellness Trust is also pushing for the government to take obesity prevention seriously.

He said: ‘As part of Boris Johnson’s ‘war on obesity’, we strongly urge him to factor in oral health as an essential part of his strategy planning.

‘Those living with poor oral health are at an increased risk of many health complications and susceptible to the effects of any virus, including COVID-19.

‘Strategies such as oral health prevention and toothbrushing programmes in nurseries and schools is one way of supporting this long overdue ‘prevention better than cure’ ethos.

‘However, it’s imperative that we get the full backing by ministers to make these educational initiatives more readily and widely available.’

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