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Obesity Rates targeted

Monday, January 12th, 2009 Obesity Rates targeted

With reference to a recent report out by there BBC (02 01 09) The government has launched a healthy living campaign in a desperate attempt to halt the rising numbers of obese people growing within the UK.

The campaign will include television adverts warning too much body fat leads to cancer, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. The government’s £275m marketing push to tackle obesity will see Tesco and Asda cut prices on healthy food, ITV launch a national health campaign and Pepsi use its stars in fitness ads. These include Gary Lineker and David Beckham, but Pepsi has not yet revealed who will appear in its anti-obesity ads.

The government said it was also holding talks, through industry body the Advertising Association, with companies including BSkyB, Kraft and Unilever about joining the initiative.

Tesco and Asda have pledged to run promotions to encourage healthier eating, “Ten million people visit their corner shops every day and 36 million shop at Asda and Tesco each week. The fact that grocers and supermarkets are on board means we can really influence what goes into our shopping trolleys.”

Equally, a range of other convenience stores - including Spar, Londis and Cost-cutter - will run a pilot in the north-east to improve the quality and promotion of fresh fruit and vegetables.

The Change4Life campaign includes £75m of government marketing and a pledge of £200m in services and ad space from a coalition of 33 companies.

The three-year initiative follows a Foresight report, published last year, which warned the government must act to stop Britain “sleepwalking” into a crisis.

The report, which was the largest UK study into obesity, backed by the government and compiled by 250 experts, said excess weight had become the norm in our “obesogenic” society.

By 2050 90% of today’s children will be overweight or obese, it predicted.

Public health minister Dawn Primarolo said: “The message at the heart of the Change4Life campaign is that there are very serious health consequences associated with allowing dangerous amounts of fat to build up in our bodies.”

She added that the extent of the obesity problem demands an “ambitious and innovative” approach that has not been tried before.

The television adverts, which will run for three months, were put together by Aardman Animations, the people behind Wallace and Gromit, and are designed to appeal to families. Hitherto, the Change4Life initiative branding will also be used by charities, local organisations and companies.

Unilever, the company behind Flora, will use the logo in its sponsorship of the London Marathon. The Co-op, National Convenience Stores and Tesco will have the branding in its shops and PepsiCo UK will run an advertising campaign to promote “active play” through sports personalities.

The head of nutrition and research at the Medical Research Council and government adviser on the campaign, Dr Susan Jebb, states in the modern world it was “utterly astonishing” that anyone stayed slim.

“This is something even for those families who have a healthy weight now.

“We have got to give people the information they need to make informed decisions.”

Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson said only 6% of people understood the health risks of being overweight.

“Many people see fat as a vanity issue rather than a health issue and they need to see it as a health issue.”

Dr Tammy Boyce of the King’s Fund has urged the government to be more imaginative and innovative when tackling the issues of obesity, although he says that the change4life programme showed the department was willing to brace new ideas in the pursuit of influencing behaviour.

Moreover, Tam Fry of the National Obesity Forum acknowledges that the enthusiasm surrounding the campaign is very encouraging, though he has concerns regarding the fact that there might not be adequate funding in place to match the might of industry. He indicates that, “This is the last chance the government have got to make something work - if it doesn’t work then there’s nothing else one can do.”

In addition he adds, “In the end I think legislation will be required if we’re going to nail the problem of obesity.”

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