The government of the UK adopted a plan to combat obesity on July 27 following the publication of a study identifying obesity as an aggravating factor in COVID-19.
“Losing weight is difficult, but with some small changes we can all feel thinner and healthier,” said British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. When he was admitted to intensive care in the spring after contracting COVID-19, he repeatedly attributed the severity of his symptoms to his weight and other factors. His government adopted a comprehensive plan to combat obesity on Monday 27 July, following the publication of a study confirming that obesity is an aggravating factor in Covid-19.
Public Health England (PHE), an agency of the National Department of Health and Welfare, published the study on Saturday 25 July, which found that obese people are 40% more likely to die from COVID-19. “We know that obesity increases the risk of serious illness and death from coronavirus, so it is vital that we take action to improve our nation’s health and protect the NHS,” Health Secretary Matthew Hancock said in a statement on Monday.
Helping people make good choices
The Better Health campaign launched by the UK health authorities will “encourage people to adopt healthier lifestyles and lose weight where it is needed,” according to the NHS, which aims to combat “the obesity time bomb”.
The measures announced include a ban on junk food advertising before 9 pm to reduce children’s exposure. But also the display of calories on menus in restaurants and take-out chains with over 250 employees.
In addition, supermarkets have to stop advertising junk food and are no longer allowed to display these items in key areas of their stores, such as at the checkout counter or in the lobby. “When you shop, it’s right to have access to the right information about the food you eat to help people make the right decisions,” Hancock said.
Doctors are encouraged to prescribe exercise
The plan also provides for an expansion of the NHS’s weight-loss arms. And general practitioners are encouraged to “prescribe exercise” to their patients. According to a Downing Street source quoted by the PA news agency, this could take the form of pilot projects in affected areas, where doctors could “prescribe cycling sessions,” facilitated by the provision of equipment and the creation of separate bike lanes.
In the UK, almost two thirds (63%) of adults are overweight, with 36% overweight and 28% obese, according to government data. One in three children between the ages of 10 and 11 is overweight or obese.