This site is intended for health professionals only

Health secretary to call for a “national movement” to combat obesity

23 July 2008

Share this article

Alan Johnson will speak tonight of the “moral duty” to tackle obesity in a major talk on the growing epidemic.

The health secretary will tonight (23 July 2008) call for a national movement to tackle the growing problem of obesity by encouraging citizens to live healthy lives.

In a major speech on the obesity epidemic, Alan Johnson will outline the public health implications and argue that our strategy to combat obesity will only succeed if every part of society joins together 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.

“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.”

Mr Johnson will also say that, rather than “vilifying the extremely fat”, the issue of obesity should be presented “more intelligently”.

In his speech, Mr Johnson will say: “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.”

“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.”

Department of Health