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Tony Blair Institute for Global Change calls for action on obesity following failure of 700 government policies

Obesity is costing the UK £98bn a year
Three quarters of people aged 45 to 74 in England are overweight or obese
The combined cost to the NHS, coupled with economic loss is £35bn
The Tony Blair Institute for Global Change is calling for urgent action
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Without government action, economic growth in the UK will continue to be hampered by the rising cost of obesity on society according to a report from the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change.

The institute says "Every government since 1992 has missed targets to reduce obesity, despite publishing 14 strategies and implementing almost 700 policies. The status quo is not working; we must tackle the causes of obesity."

Over the past 70 years, obesity rates have risen to record levels in the UK. Fit for the Future: A Fair Deal on Food for a Healthier Britain reports that almost three quarters of people between the ages of 45 and 74 in England are either overweight or obese, while obesity is increasing over time: in 1970 it impacted one in 10 British adults, now it’s one in three.

"Pre-packaged, convenient and ultra-processed food now makes up 57 per cent of the average UK diet and the dominance of this food is making people sick", say the report's authors. "Today, nearly one-third of children aged 2 to 15 have overweight or obesity, the UK has the third-highest rate of adult obesity in Europe and obesity-related deaths have surpassed those caused by smoking."

Poor food choices and resulting health issues are estimated to cost society £98bn a year – almost 4 per cent of GDP.

Around two-thirds of this cost falls on individuals with obesity, through fewer years of healthy life, as well the impact of this on their families and friends, through additional caring responsibilities. The remaining £35bn is shouldered by society through NHS costs and lower productivity.

Data show that obesity costs the NHS £6 billion annually, set to rise to over £9.7 billion by 2050.

With an ageing population the cost is likely to increase by at least 10 per cent by 2040. While childhood obesity is a harbinger of future problems. These spiralling costs will inevitably mean an ever-increasing tax burden, lower productivity and additional government spend just to maintain the status quo.

According to the Tony Blair Institute, this situation is not sustainable: “To put the UK on a better path, the government must reimagine its approach to economic growth and recognise that early intervention to help address the UK’s obesity crisis will not only result in a healthier population but also support that growth.”

In a foreword to the report, food campaigner, Jamie Oliver, calls for action on many fronts, saying: "We’re asking for proper provision of free school meals for those who need it, proper food education at school, proper protection from the relentless flood of junk food and proper food leadership in government. And delicious, nutritious food available at affordable prices.

Tony Blair Institute says that to tackle obesity, the government must act to:

1. Create a commercial food environment that provides accessible and affordable healthy options for people.

2. Embed healthier food across all government entities such as the National Health Service and schools to promote long-term health – particularly for children and the vulnerable.

3. Actively adopt new research, technologies and treatments to improve the prevention and treatment of obesity.

It also says "these goals must rise above political differences to achieve a cross-party consensus that can survive any change of government."

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Without government action, economic growth will continue to be hampered by the rising cost of obesity on society says a report from the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change.

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