Obesity action needs to get tougher

Governments around the world need to do more to tackle the escalating problem of obesity, it has been suggested. New research published in The Lancet has claimed no country has been able to successfully fight the issue so far, noting changes in wider society are making it increasingly difficult for individuals to eat healthily and regularly exercise.

The series of studies stated that health systems would find it difficult to cope with issues relating to weight without the help of state intervention.

In addition, researchers found obesity rates in the UK could increase from 25 per cent to 40 per cent by 2030.

Such an upturn is likely to cost the NHS and additional £2 billion a year, unless the government takes a tougher stance on the issue - such as taxing junk food.

Professor Klim McPherson, from Oxford University - the oldest English-speaking university in the world - and one of the lead investigators in the study, said: "It is about changing the environment in which people live so they can make healthier choices.

Chartered Psychologist and a Fellow of the British Psychological Society Professor Jane Wardle commented: "The messages in this series of powerful papers on obesity published in the Lancet are stark: rates of obesity look set to continue upwards, the adverse health effects will incur massive health care costs and the extent of energy imbalance required to achieve sustained weight loss has been underestimated.

"More action is needed, with more vigour and on more fronts. What are the implications for psychology? Of the top ten cost-saving (or highly cost-effective) actions to control the rise in obesity identified by Gortmaker et al, six are either school-based behaviour change programmes or family-based treatment programmes where psychological models and skills are paramount both to delivering and improving outcomes.

"Others, such as improving labelling on foods, could certainly benefit from applications of psychology to maximise their impact. Environmental exposures and individual behaviours are closely intertwined in the complex aetiology of obesity and psychologists are well-placed to make a central contribution. It's time we stepped up to the plate!"