In her latest annual report, Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies concludes that obesity has become a “growing health catastrophe” and that legislation may be necessary to quell the epidemic.
“Obesity has to be a national priority,” Davies said. “Action is required across all of society to prevent obesity and its associated problems from shortening women’s lives and affecting their quality of life.”
The Telegraph reports at in the UK 51 percent of woman between the ages of 25 and 34 are considered overweight or obese, and that this number rises to 63 percent between ages 45 to 54. Obesity in men is even higher, with 79.4 percent between 45 and 54 classified as overweight or obese.
Davies goes on to say that if the food industry doesn’t make healthy changes to the way food is made or advertised, taxation may be necessary. “I think it’s inevitable that manufacturing has to reformulate and resize,” she told the BBC, “that supermarkets and others need to stop cheap promotions on unhealthy food and putting unhealthy food at the check-out, and limit advertising dramatically… I think we’re at a tipping point. If industry won’t deliver then we’ll have to look at a sugar tax.”
Davies stresses the health risks involved with obesity in pregnant women and to “debunk the myth” that expectant mothers should be eating for two. “In women, obesity can affect the outcomes of any pregnancies they have and the health of any future children they may have,” she said.
Furthermore, Davies understands that lifestyle changes can be overwhelming. “This is a difficult message to convey, as it risks burdening women with guilt and responsibility,” she said, “but I believe that it can also empower women to take positive steps… It is never too late to take action for a healthier lifestyle.”
Obesity is not just a medical problem, but also an expensive one. Professor Nick Finer from the University College London’s Institute of Cardiovascular Science is concerned with the eceonomic impact obesity is having on the National Health Service. “Estimates of the economic costs of obesity suggest they will bankrupt the NHS,” he said. “Elevating the problem of obesity to a national risk could help to address the current ‘laissez faire’ attitude to this huge, angry, growing health catastrophe.”
Aside from obesity, Dame Sally’s annual report also provides recommendations for better clinical staff training for violence against women, more research for screening tests, more contraception availability for women at all reproductive ages.