The new Government’s approach to public health is posing ‘a massive risk’ to people’s health, the Nuffield Trust has warned. The warning comes in the wake of reports that Health Secretary Therese Coffey is planning to scrap measures to curb obesity such as the sugar tax, and ditching of the tobacco control plan and the health inequalities white paper
A report published earlier in the year by Nuffield found that one in four children in Year 6 were obese or severely obese in the 2020/21 school year.
‘Over the past decade, there have been no improvements in levels of excess weight and obesity in childhood. With it widely reported that the obesity strategy intended to tackle this issue may be abandoned, child obesity disappearing from the government’s list of priorities poses a massive risk to young people’s health now and in the future,’ warned Nuffield Trust senior fellow Dr Liz Fisher.
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Officials from Whitehall believe that Dr Coffey will also scrap the tobacco control plan, despite data from the Kings Fund finding that 40% of premature mortality in the UK is caused by preventable conditions like cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer.
‘Smoking, poor diet, physical inactivity and harmful alcohol use are leading risk factors driving the UK’s high burden of preventable ill health and premature mortality. All are socioeconomically patterned and contribute significantly to widening health inequalities’ the Health Foundation wrote in a report earlier this year.
The Health Foundation believe that ‘the costs of government inaction on the leading risk factors driving ill health are clear. As the country recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic and seeks to build greater resilience against future shocks, now is the time to act.’
Concerns over the health secretary’s approach have also been raised by Tory MP Dr Dan Poulter who this week criticised her for her ‘ultra-libertarian’ views in an opinion piece for the Guardian.
He insisted that Ms. Coffey was ‘in danger of being a health secretary who appears opposed to the need for bold government action to tackle the great scourges of our health’.