Top health boss calls for action on obesity

Blackpool's director of public health, Dr Arif Rajpura (below) is calling for new ways to tackle obesity.
Blackpool's director of public health, Dr Arif Rajpura (below) is calling for new ways to tackle obesity.
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BLACKPOOL’s top health boss would back a ban on companies like McDonalds and Coca-Cola sponsoring sporting events such as the Olympics.

Dr Arif Rajpura has welcomed a new inquiry being carried out by the Academy of Royal Medical Colleges (AoMRC), which calls for new ways to tackle obesity.

Blackpool's director of public health, Dr Arif Rajpura

Blackpool's director of public health, Dr Arif Rajpura

The director of public health in the resort said excellent work had been done to deal with alcohol and tobacco, but not enough to tackle obesity.

He said it was a complicated issue, but needed a strong stance – like the action already taken on cigarettes, such as banning packets being on display in large shops.

Dr Rajpura said he felt there should be a fat tax, a tax on sugary drinks and a ban on junk food firms sponsoring events which should promote health.

He said: “We need to do something and we need to do it now. It is a complex issue with many factors – not least our lifestyles are completely different from those of years ago.

“Sponsorship is an important one. Here we have one of the biggest ever sporting events later this year in the UK, the Olympics, one of the best chances to promote health and it’s being sponsored by the likes of McDonald’s and Coca-Cola. It just all creates an obesogenic environment – and we have to change that.”

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The AoMRC campaign will look into action which can be taken by individuals – including diet, exercise and parenting, as well as the impact of advertising, food labelling and sponsorship. It will also examine clinical interventions, financial measures, such as taxation and minimum pricing and education. Dr Rajpura said he believed a combination of measures would be the key.

“I think we need food labelling and standardised food labelling, so people can compare and know what’s in their food. A fat tax might work, but would have to be sophisticated – I would like to see a tax on these sugary, fizzy drinks – they have no nutritional benefit.

“And what about saturation policies? In Blackpool, we have a high concentration of fast-food outlets.

“There are a whole range of measures and I feel this inquiry is good news to look at them. We are also doing work in the North West on the issue. We need to take action.”

Around 1,500 people on the Fylde coast are admitted to hospital each year due to obesity-related illness.