Boris Johnson put it bluntly following his hospital stay in April 2020: “I was too fat”. The British Prime Minister has since been convinced of this: it is because he was obese (110 kg for 175 cm, or a body mass index greater than 30) that he developed a severe form of Covid-19. Since then, he explained that he had given up his nightly cravings for cheese and started jogging: he would have lost up to 1.5 stones (9.5 kg).
Above all, the conservative leader, a fan of cycling in a personal capacity but until then a fervent opponent of the Nanny State (“The overprotective state”) has made obesity its number one public health topic. There is no longer any question of refusing political action in an attempt to eradicate the phenomenon, nor of denouncing, as in a column signed in 2004 in the Daily Telegraph (and titled “It’s your fault you’re gros ”), those deputies who already wanted to deal with the waistlines of the British.
It must be said that clinical studies have now established a clear and alarming relationship between excess weight and an increased risk of developing a severe form of Covid-19 and of dying from it. Which would contribute to the sad death record in the United Kingdom: almost 127,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic, “Even if we cannot establish the part played by obesity, it is clearly an aggravating factor”, says Dr Adam Briggs, member of the Health Foundation charity.
The figures are alarming: 28% of UK adults are considered obese, according to UK public hospital data from 2019 (and 21% of children aged 10 or 11). While a third of UK children live in poor homes – after deducting the often very high housing costs from family incomes – the link between great poverty and obesity is characterized: 27.2% of children in the most disadvantaged areas are considered obese, against 13.9% for those living in the least disadvantaged areas. Sedentary lifestyle, difficulties in accessing healthy and inexpensive food, have anchored eating habits in everyday life: it is common to see college students devouring chicken wings and fries after school, in the middle of the afternoon.
Outdoor sports re-authorized
In July 2020, Downing Street therefore published a first “anti-obesity plan”, proposing, in all directions, increased control of food advertising on the small screen, promotions in supermarkets (junk food traps, according to the government) and a better information for consumers. On March 4, he also announced £ 100million (€ 117million) for the NHS – the public hospital – and municipalities, to fund medical advice to around 700,000 people, nationwide advertising campaigns or local and initiatives in schools, involving 6,000 children in the poorest areas.
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