The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (AoMRC) has proposed a 10-point action plan to combat the UK's 'obesity crisis'.
The recommendations make up part of a report that says that the UK is the 'Fat Man' of Europe and that two thirds of adults are overweight (BMI over 25) and one quarter of men and women are obese (BMI over 30).
In its 'Measuring Up - The medical profession's prescription for the Nation's Obesity Crisis' report, the AoMRC report recommends 10 actions it believes must be taken to make inroads into tackling the obesity crisis in the UK.
It says Royal Colleges, faculties and other professional clinical bodies should promote targeted education and training programmes within the next two years for healthcare professionals in both primary and secondary care to ensure 'making every contact count' becomes a reality, particularly for those who have most influence on patient behaviour
The departments of health in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland should together invest at least £100 million in each of the next three financial years to extend and increase provision of weight management services across the country, to mirror the provision of smoking cessation services.
This should include both early intervention programmes and, greater provision for severe and complicated obesity, including bariatric surgery. Adjustments could then be made to the QOF, providing incentives for GP staff to refer patients to such services
The expansion of the health visitor workforce in England should be accompanied by 'skilling up' the wider early years workforce to deliver basic food preparation skills to new mothers and fathers, and to guide appropriate food choices which will ensure nutritionally balanced meals, encourage breastfeeding and use existing guidance in the Personal Child Health Record as a tool to support this.
The report also recommended Public Health England should, in its first 18 months of operation, undertake an audit of local authority licensing and catering arrangements with the intention of developing formal recommendations on reducing the proximity of fast food outlets to schools, colleges, leisure centres and other places where children gather
It recommended a ban on advertising of foods high in saturated fats, sugar and salt before 9pm, and an agreement from commercial broadcasters that they will not allow these foods to be advertised on internet 'on-demand' services. For an initial one year, a duty should be piloted on all sugary soft drinks, increasing the price by at least 20%. This would be an experimental measure, looking at price elasticity, substitution effects, and to what extent it impacts upon consumption patterns and producer/retailer responses.
And major food manufacturers and supermarkets should agree in the next year a unified system of traffic light food labelling (to be based on percentage of calories for men, women, children and adolescents) and visible calorie indicators for restaurants, especially fast food outlets
Linda Hindle, chairman of the British Dietetic Association's specialist group Dietitians in Obesity Management UK, said: 'Obesity in the UK is an absolute epidemic, there is no question that the recommendations in this report are essential if we are to tackle this growing concern. The focus on the obesogenic environment is particularly positive because the odds are stacked against individuals trying to make healthy choices when they are surrounded by easily accessible, relatively cheap, high calorie snacks.
"The British Dietetic Association worked hard in contributing to this report, but words alone will not combat obesity rates in this country. Action across the board is what will make a difference."