British children are facing a high risk of obesity-related type 2 diabetes and heart disease, according to NHS England chief Simon Stevens.
Stevens has warned that Britain is experiencing a normalisation of obesity, largely due to a lack of education and awareness. Stevens also argues that the government must accept some responsibility for the obesity crisis.
“Junk food, sugary fizzy drinks and couch potato lifestyles are normalising obesity – and as parents, a third of us can’t now spot when our own child is seriously overweight,” said Stevens.
A third of children are overweight by the end of their primary school education. According to the World Health Organisatio, 75 per cent of British men will be obese by 2030. The UK has the second-highest rates of obesity in Europe.
Obesity, as well as being a health problem in its own right, increases the risk of other conditions, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and some forms of cancer.
The problem is also a political one. A recent study showed that, in the last 20 years, healthy foods have become more expensive, while processed foods have become cheaper. There are also concerns about industry regulation and marketing.
Government incentives to reduce rates of obesity and type 2 diabetes include Change4Life and the Responsibility Deal, which urges manufacturers to make their food healthier.
“We’ve got a choice. Condemn our children to a rising tide of avoidable diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer, and burden taxpayers with an NHS bill far exceeding an extra £8 billion by 2020? Or take wide-ranging action – as families, as the health service, as Government, as industry. It’s a no brainer – pull out all the stops on prevention, or face the music,” said Stevens.
Stevens identified the strain obesity and type 2 diabetes place on the NHS:
“The health service is entering probably its most challenging period in its 67-year history. We’ll certainly step up and play our part – but the NHS can’t do it alone.
“Because the NHS isn’t just a care and repair service, it’s a social movement. We’re going to need active support from patients, the public and politicians of all parties.”

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