In her annual report, Professor Dame Sally Davies points out the risk is especially concerning for women and future generations. She cites the fact that 54% of women aged 34 to 44 were overweight or obese in 2013, and almost two-thirds of those aged 45 to 54.
‘Obesity has to be a national priority,’ Dame Sally declared. ‘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.
‘In women, obesity can affect the outcomes of any pregnancies they have and the health of any future children they may have. This is a difficult message to convey, as it risks burdening women with guilt and responsibility, but I believe that it can also empower women to take positive steps like eating more healthily and taking more exercise. It is never too late to take action for a healthier lifestyle - for you and your family.’
Dame Sally also said she wants to ‘bust the myth’ that women should eat for two when pregnant, adding a healthy diet containing a variety of fruit and vegetables and avoiding alcohol was important.
She admits that the fact she is England’s first ever female CMO has made her determined to focus her report on the health issues affecting women and children. She further explained her rationale for using such strong words, declaring that not only does obesity shorten women’s lives but there is a danger that their children will be stillborn or grow up with health problems themselves, such as obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure.
Her concern echoes those expressed by a leading global institute, which JFH reported on last week. The McKinsey Institute’s view is that the world should ‘declare war on obesity’ due to the adverse health effects obesity has on people’s lifes.
Dame Sally also issued a stark warning to the food industry, saying if they fail to stop cheap promotions on junk food or refused to reformulate, then ‘we’ll have to look at a sugar tax’. This aligns with PHE messages but is not a view expected to be endorsed by the Prime Minister Davd Cameron when he announces his Obesity Framework in the New Year.
Tam Fry, head spokesperson for The National Obesity Forum (NOF) said, ‘The NOF completely agrees with Dame Sally that obesity is a national risk and that government must make tackling it a national priority. The tragedy is that 13 years ago her predecessor, Sir Liam Donaldson, spelt out the same message in his 2002 Annual Report and proposed an obesity prevention strategy. Had it been followed it might well have halved the disgraceful obesity figures that we have to-day. First the Labour administration ignored his advice, then the Coalition and now the Conservatives have declined to act on what he proposed. The Health Ministers ave failed a generation by allowing the risk to further develop. The NHS is approaching meltdown because of obesity and the responsibility for that leads straight to Whitehall and Nr 10.
Dame Sally also endorsed the recent call for statutory PSHE education, by recommending that the Department for Education and Department of Health make PSHE education ‘a routine part of all children’s education’. Her voice adds yet more weight to the list of supporters who include the Commons Education Committee, Dr Sarah Wollaston (Chair of the Commons Health Committee) as well as six medical royal colleges, Public Health England, the Association of Directors of Public Health, the Faculty of Public Health, and the Royal Society for Public Health.
Read the CMO’s full report here