Three pandemics in two years – coronavirus, obesity and climate change

By Asitha Jayawardena

During coronavirus pandemic, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson launched another one on 27 July 2020. This battle is to withstand obesity, which many people consider as a pandemic on its own.

Obesity in itself is a risk for healthy living and even death. With coronavirus, obesity came into play as overweight patients of Covid-19 had to fight for their survival. Therefore, experts in Public Health England looking at four months of research identified obesity as a greater risk in coronavirus. According to the Better Health plan, being classed as obese would increase the risk of death by 40%.

Johnson’s plan

It is in this instance that Johnson put forward the government’s new obesity strategy to get the nation fit and healthy and protect against Covid-19 while safeguarding the NHS in the second spike of coronavirus, which is more likely.

However, these efforts in the UK are extremely supportive rather than excessively bossy or nannying, he clarified.

His plan is as follows:

  • Banning junk food adverts on TV and online before 9 pm
  • Banning confectionary displays at the checkouts or near the store entrances
  • Banning “buy one, get one free” promotions on chocolate and sweets
  • Giving calories for selected menu items

When he had coronavirus in April, Johnson realised that obesity was harmful to health and may even cause death. Fitter and healthier individuals would defeat coronavirus while protecting the NHS, he said. That’s how the need to campaign the national battle about obesity came about.

The NHS and the Public Health England

Meanwhile, Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said that anybody classed as overweight lose 5lb would save NHS £100 million over the next five years. Losing weight could be lifesaving in the era of Covid-19, he said.

The NHS weight loss programme will provide a 12-week weight loss app while the GPs would recommend bike rides for overweight people. Doctors will get pay incentives for the number of people referred to slimming clubs and weight loss programmes.

Chief nutritionist at Public Health England Dr Alison Tedstone says the plan is ambitious. “Tackling obesity will help prevent serious illness and save lives,” she said.

However, there is no plan to extend the tax on sugary drinks to other products, including food, although it was quite successful.

Campaigners welcome the plan but…

The Obesity Health Alliance, a coalition of more than 40 leading health organisations, medical royal colleges and campaign groups, praised the plan. However, some have queried that this plan puts individual responsibility on obesity rather than addressing health inequalities.

Two-thirds of UK adults are over a healthy weight and one in three children of 10 to 11 are overweight.

The third pandemic can wait another year

The third pandemic – climate change – can wait another year until we sort the other two things out – coronavirus and obesity – although climate activists such as Greta Thunberg say that we should campaign for climate change as well as coronavirus.

In partnership with Italy, the UK will host the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow on 1–12 November 2021.

This way, the three campaigns – coronavirus, obesity and climate change – will be solved in two years. Or we hope so.


New obesity strategy unveiled as country urged to lose weight to beat coronavirus (COVID-19) and protect the NHS

Coronavirus: Obesity increases risks from Covid-19, experts say

Overweight Brits urged to lose 5lbs with deals on unhealthy foods set to be banned under Government’s obesity crackdown



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