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an obese woman
Image: picture-alliance/PA/D. Leal-Olivas

UK to tackle obesity 'time bomb'

July 27, 2020

Prime Minister Boris Johnson devised the "Better Health" campaign after becoming seriously ill with coronavirus, partly blamed on his weight. The plan will include "cycling prescriptions" and junk food advert bans.


The UK government on Monday unveiled a GBP 10 million ($12.8 million, €11 million) anti-obesity campaign.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants to tackle obesity after research showed those who are obese or overweight are at increased risk of death or severe illness from the coronavirus.

"Losing weight is hard but with some small changes we can all feel fitter and healthier," Johnson said in a statement.


In April, Johnson spent a week in a London hospital, including 48 hours in intensive care, suffering from COVID-19. He recently went public with his own weight loss, sparked by his health scare.

Read more: Coronavirus pandemic changes eating habits in Germany

Obesity – a global problem

How will the government tackle obesity?

As part of the "Better Health" campaign, doctors will be encouraged to issue "cycling prescriptions" to overweight patients.

The government plans to bring in more segregated cycling lanes and introduce a ban on showing junk food adverts on television before 9 p.m. and end "buy one get one free" deals on such foods, according to British media reports.

Restaurants will also have to publish the number of calories in the meals they serve, according to a report in UK national newspaper the Daily Mail.

Read more: COVID-19: Severe brain damage possible even with mild symptoms

Weight a cause for concern

Junior health minister Helen Whately called obesitry "one of the greatest health challengfes for our country."

"COVID-19 has given us all a wake-up call of the immediate and long-term risks of being overweight," said a government spokesperson on Sunday ahead of the roll-out.

"We will be urging the public to use this moment to take stock of how they live their lives, and to take simple steps to lose weight, live healthier lives, and reduce pressure on the [state-funded National Health Service ] NHS."

Obesity increases the risk of death from coronavirus by 40%, according to a study published on Saturday by UK government agency Public Health England (PHE). This puts at risk the more than 60% of adults in Britain considered overweight or obese, according to PHE.

kmm/rt (AP, Reuters)

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