Report calls for stronger Gov’t action on obesity, alcohol abuse

The next Government should consider “strong” state intervention on pricing and the availability of alcohol and “unhealthy” foods when developing its future strategy to tackle misuse and obesity, according to a health charity.

The Department of Health's Change4Life campaign
The Department of Health’s Change4Life campaign

In a review of Labour’s 13-year management of the NHS, The King’s Fund says there is “little evidence” that the Government’s existing policies on alcohol abuse and obesity have been successful.

The charity adds there is a “strong case” for the next Government, “regardless of “political persuasion”, to combine “strong state action” – such as the statutory restrictions on the marketing and sale of tobacco – with public information campaigns and incentive programmes when tackling misuse and obesity.

The fund argues “there is no sign” that Labour’s strategy to tackle alcohol abuse has been a success. The Government favours a mixture of public information campaigns, treatment, combating alcohol related crime and voluntary agreements with the industry to reduce harmful alcohol consumption.

The Department of Health recently launched a multimedia campaign warning consumers of the hidden dangers of alcohol. It has also proposed statutory health information on alcohol labels after becoming frustrated with the progress made by the industry under the current voluntary agreement.

On obesity, King’s argues that rising rates are evidence that work is still to be done although the report adds that some progress has been made by Labour in increasing healthy eating through its 5-a-day campaign.

The report does not comment specifically on the progress made since the launch of the Government’s £75m anti-obesity social marketing initiative Change4Life last year. The Department of Health recently reported that the drive, which aims to get people to “eat less and move more”, has had some success in its first year.

A report in February provided evidence of behavioural change as a result of Change4Life with 35% of the mothers of children under 11 asked saying they have taken some action after seeing campaign ads.

Labour has vowed not to cut public health campaigns but has instigated a review of all social marketing across the NHS and the DoH to ensure campaigns have the “maximum impact in helping people to change their behaviour” and that that they provide “even better value for money and are more cost efficient”.

The Conservative Party has promised to cut Government spending on marketing and communication to 1997 levels if it wins the general election.

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