Tackling obesity and its causes requires coordinated interventions on three fronts, educational, health and commercial/regulatory, bringing together different participants like health professionals (including GP’s), schools, supermarkets and food producers.
On the educational front, encompassing both the education sector itself and wider public messaging , there are a number of interventions. Young people from a very early age should be taught the importance of food and nutrition and how it relates to them and how it is produced. This needs to continue into Primary School and Secondary School and supplemented with food preparation and cookery classes. Exercise and fun sports and activities would become part of the school timetable and given much more emphasis than is currently the case. PE teachers would be recruited in inner city schools where is it more challenging for kids to exercise and children would be encouraged to walk to school wherever possible.
A major public information campaign highlighting the dangers of obesity would be mounted and maintained over a prolonged period, similar to those that have shifted public attitudes over time to drink driving and smoking. Support would be given to families who need extra support and encouragement to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
The challenge is to deliver change and engage public support in those disadvantaged areas where obesity poses a particular threat. The community and voluntary sectors will have networks and ideas about how to get buy-in from communities. Role models/champions are able to reach audiences that conventional means don’t (look at Marcus Rashford and Captain Tom).
In the health sector much is already being done to deal with the consequences of obesity, but strengthening the prevention/early intervention focus and building multi-disciplinary teams of medical, mental health and social care specialists specifically to support the wider strategy will provide additional momentum.
In the commercial sector both voluntary partnerships with business and a regulatory framework that incentivises change will be needed. Supermarkets will be encouraged to promote fresh fruit and vegetables instead of unhealthy options and junk foods. The subsidy support structure for the agriculture sector would encourage the production of the necessary products. Taxes targeted on less healthy foods would be used to subsidise some of the additional services being recommended. Advertising guidelines would change to incorporate this new way of thinking and all junk food adverts would be banned.
In terms of delivery and oversight, a cross-cutting government group, headed by a Minister but with a high -profile advisory group to advise and support, would be established to drive through the necessary changes and report progress on a regular basis.