U.K. government must take stronger measures to tackle nation's obesity epidemic, starting with putting an end to irresponsible marketing by major food, beverage companies, doctors group says

LONDON , April 16, 2012 (press release) – The medical profession has come together to launch a campaign on what it claims is the single greatest public health threat in the UK – rising levels of child and adult obesity.
Health professionals from surgeons and psychiatrists to paediatricians and GPs are joining forces under the umbrella of the Academy of Royal Medical Colleges (AoMRC) to launch the campaign which begins today with a 3-month evidence-gathering inquiry.

Professor Terence Stephenson, Vice-Chair of the AoMRC and President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health is chairing the campaign’s steering group which comprises representatives from all 21 Royal Medical Colleges and Faculties.

The campaign will seek the views of healthcare professionals, local authorities, education providers, charities, campaign groups and the public, in the form of written and oral evidence. It will look specifically for research and experience of actions and strategies that work in preventing or reducing obesity covering 5 key areas:

* Action that can be taken by individuals (e.g. diet, exercise, positive parenting)
* The environment (e.g. advertising; food labelling; sponsorship, the built environment, local authority policies and facilities etc.)
* Clinical interventions (i.e. what are the effective interventions that clinicians can make on preventing and tackling obesity)
* Fiscal measures (taxation, minimum pricing, corporate or personal incentives)
* Education (nurseries, schools, further and higher education and public information)

The campaign’s first report will be published later this year, offering a series of practical recommendations for how the medical profession, individuals, organisations and Government can ensure an effective and coherent approach to reducing obesity levels. The report will provide the spring board for campaigning activity which will continue into next year.

Professor Terence Stephenson said:

Our starting point is the collective desire to ensure the healthcare profession is doing all it can to detect, treat, manage – and ultimately prevent – obesity. It is unprecedented that the medical royal colleges and faculties have come together on such a high profile public health issue. But we’ve done so because we recognise the huge crisis waiting to happen and believe that current strategies to reduce obesity are failing to have a significant impact. Speaking with one voice we have a more of a chance of preventing generation after generation falling victim to obesity-related illnesses and death.”

Professor Sir Neil Douglas, Chair of the Academy of Royal Medical Colleges, said:

This won’t be just another report that sits on the shelf and gathers dust; it will form the bedrock of our ongoing campaigning activity. We are absolutely determined to push for whatever changes need to happen to make real progress in tackling – which is why we’re casting the net wide to get input from a range of organisations and individuals.

For interviews with Professor Terence Stephenson or a spokesperson from the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, please contact:

Melissa Milner: melissa.milner@rcpch.ac.ukThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 020 7092 6005 / 07837 973 413

Organisations and individuals can submit evidence at: obesity@aomrc.org.ukThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

For more information on giving evidence and about the Obesity Steering Group please see the Obesity Steering Group webpage or the RCPCH website.

Key facts

* 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
* It could be costing the NHS £10 billion a year by 2050.

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