Government Calls For National Movement To Tackle Obesity

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Health Secretary Alan Johnson calls for a national movement to tackle the growing problem of obesity. In a major speech on public health the Secretary of State for Health will outline the public health implications of the obesity epidemic and argue that our strategy to combat obesity will only succeed if every part of our society recognises the problem and joins together to takes steps to address it.

Speaking at the Fabian Society tonight, Alan Johnson will say:

"Obesity is the biggest health challenge we face. Over the last 60 years, the number of people who are severely overweight has risen steadily. There is a very real danger that today's children will be the first to live shorter lives than their parents and spend more of their years in poor health.

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"Just as the government has a moral duty to tackle poverty and exclusion, so it also has a duty to address obesity. But this is not a licence to hector and lecture people on how they should spend their lives - not least because this simply won't work. Tackling obesity requires a much broader partnership, not only with families, but with employers, retailers, the leisure industry, the media, local government and the voluntary sector. We need a national movement that will bring about a fundamental change in the way we live our lives.

"Research shows us that vilifying the extremely fat doesn't make people change their behaviour. Commentators who point and shout at pictures of the morbidly obese simply fuel the problem. Those whose seriously unhealthy lifestyles are not advertised by their waist lines will simply say: "Well that's not me. I don't need to change what I do." But if you present the message more intelligently - if you explain to parents that many children, regardless of their size, have dangerous levels of fat in their arteries or around their organs, and this may reduce their life expectancy by up to 11 years - then people respond.

"Earlier today, I met with leaders from major health charities, retailers, the health profession and community action groups to discuss how we could form a national campaign that would help us change the way we live. I have also written to 220,000 local activists who are already doing excellent work in their communities to promote good health to ask them to shape this movement.

"This national movement for change will enable every citizen in the country at every stage of their lives to get the encouragement and support they need to be healthy - from what they see on the television, to what they buy in the local supermarket, to the resources at their disposal in the local community, to how they travel to and from work or school, to the information and advice they get from health professionals.

"We are calling on everyone - from the smallest community keep fit class to the biggest retailers in the land - to join in this campaign to change the way we live our lives."

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