Boris Johnson’s Better Health campaign to tackle UK obesity epidemic
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has used a struggle with his own weight to launch measures targeted at a widespread obesity problem that could heighten coronavirus risks.
The new government initiatives include banning TV and online advertisements for junk food before 9:00pm, ending buy-one-get-one-free deals on such food, and flagging calories on menus of large restaurants — and possibly on alcohol.
The Better Health campaign will be introduced with weight-management services expanded in the National Health Service.
Mr Johnson, 56, who has lost more than 6kg since a life-threatening brush with COVID-19, has responded to research showing those who are obese or overweight are at increased risk of death or severe illness from the disease.
The Prime Minister has a reputation for liking the finer things in life and has spoken of enjoying an expensive bottle of red wine and late-night binges on chorizo and cheese in the past.
He has also championed cycling to work and introduced so-called Boris bikes in London for public use when he was mayor of the capital.
Last month, Mr Johnson said British people were fatter than most European counterparts and his Government would be “tackling the obesity time bomb”.
“I’ve always wanted to lose weight for ages and ages and like many people I struggle with my weight, I go up and down. But since I recovered from coronavirus I have been steadily building up my fitness,” he said in a Twitter video on Monday.
“When I went into ICU when I was really ill, I was way overweight … and, you know, I was too fat.”
Mr Johnson said he hoped the new health campaign was not “excessively bossy” but rather a gentle nudge for Britain to get fitter.
His spokesman said the Prime Minister was “mindful” of the possible impact on struggling broadcasters and online businesses from the ad ban, but that “obesity is one of the biggest health crises that the country faces”.
More than 60 per cent of adults in Britain are considered overweight or obese, according to Public Health England.
The Opposition Labour Party said it had heard “big promises” from the ruling Conservatives before and criticised them for past health-service cuts.
“An effective obesity strategy needs action, not consultation,” said Labour’s health and social care policy chief Alex Norris.
“The Tories have pared public health to the bone and people are paying the price for 10 years of this complacency.”