A LEADING doctor from the North East has backed a new Government approach to tackling obesity which calls on the public to take responsibility for their own health.
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said yesterday that people need to be more honest with themselves about how much they eat and drink in order to tackle weight problems.
Launching a new “ambition” to bring down England’s obesity levels by 2020, he said Government and business had a role to play but added that people also needed to take responsibility for their own health.
In total, Britons should be eating five billion fewer calories a day than at present, he added.
The new obesity strategy says that, on average, adults are exceeding their recommended calorie intake by 10%. Mr Lansley said obesity not only harmed people’s health but also had a broader impact on the health service and the economy.
He also insisted the new strategy is about making sure the public had the right information to make healthy choices.
Last night Dr George Rae, chairman of the North East British Medical Association, said the new strategy is the best way to tackle obesity.
He said: “I would certainly agree with what the Health Secretary is saying. People don’t need the Government telling them ‘do this or do that’, the vast majority of people have common sense.
“I do think that if people are given the correct health information, such as that certain foods contain more fat, then they should act upon this information.
“What the Government is doing is handing over responsibility to people, which I think should work. If you tell people that alcohol contains empty calories, then hopefully people will drink less.”
Mr Lansley said that more progress will be made more quickly by giving people responsibility than would be managed through legislation.
And he said the Government would continue to “look at the evidence” on measures such as a “fat tax“ on fatty foods, something Prime Minister David Cameron has said he would consider.
While he would not rule out tougher regulation, Mr Lansley said “we have always been clear that we don’t want to impose costs on business and consumers if we can avoid doing so”.
He said a regulatory approach to unhealthy foods would be very burdensome and would take years to go through.
The Responsibility Deal – a partnership with food and drinks industries – has led to measures such as cuts in salt and increased calorie information on menus, he added. The deal has proved controversial due to the involvement of companies such as Cadbury, Coca-Cola, Mars, Nestle and PepsiCo.
The Government has also come under fire for rolling back its spending on the popular Change4Life health campaign in favour of getting commercial companies and charities to fill the gap.
Asked why the Government had chosen to set an “ambition” of a “downward trend” in obesity levels rather than specific targets, Mr Lansley said: “We like to use language that conveys the sense of what we are doing. We see it as a national ambition and call it a national ambition.”