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Obesity is ‘a slow-motion car crash’ warns NHS England boss

NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens has deemed the problem of obesity ‘a slow-motion car crash’, calling for urgent action to promote good health.

Speaking at a recent Public Health England conference Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, described obesity as “the new smoking” and warned of rising costs for the health service.

Stevens said the problem of obesity was a “slow motion car crash” and suggested new interventions to promote healthy weights and lifestyles were necessary to avoid serious health – and financial – problems in the future.

“If, as a nation, we keep piling on the pounds around the waistline, we will keep piling on the pounds in terms of future taxes just to keep the NHS afloat,” Stevens warned.

Latest figures suggest 25% of all adults are obese, with one in five children obese before they start school. It is estimated that obesity and its related health care costs the NHS £9bn per year.

Stevens suggested more needed to be done to promote healthy lifestyles, confirming that the forthcoming NHS England ‘Five Year Forward View’ would include recommendations for tackling the problem such as shifting resources towards prevention and proven intervention programmes.

Other recommendations include incentivising employers to provide workplace health programmes, offering incentives to allow the NHS to set the example by promoting good health among its own staff, and empowering local councils to take decisions on fast food, tobacco and alcohol.

Duncan Selbie, chief executive of Public Health England (PHE), welcomed Stevens’ comments on tackling obesity, saying: “he rightly highlighted the health and economic costs to society”.

Selbie added: “His focus on reducing obesity in the NHS workforce and limiting high fat and sugary foods in hospitals is especially important as they are role models for the public.”

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