Council reminds UK Government of its ethical duty to act as “steward”

30 August 2011

Hugh Whittall, Director of the Council, has written to The Independent, reminding the UK Government of its ethical responsibility to act as a steward to create conditions in which people can live healthy lives.

According to a series of articles published in The Lancet, if the UK continues with "business as usual", there will be 11 million more obese adults by 2030, with medical costs associated with obesity-related disease treatment rising by almost £2bn per year. Responding to The Lancet series, Mr Whittall outlined the Government’s ethical responsibility to act as steward, as set out in the Council’s 2007 report Public health: ethical issues. He described the types of possible government interventions, which ranged from providing information (e.g. “five-a-day”) to legal requirements (such as obligatory "traffic light" labelling).

people walking in a group

Mr Whittall said: “The evidence as to the harms arising from obesity is clear and the duty of governments to act is surely no longer in doubt… So far, the UK Government has relied too much on self-regulation by the food and drinks industries and on misinterpretations of "nudge" theory. It is clear from The Lancet that without government leadership, the obesity epidemic will not be reversed. We remind the Government that not only do they need to take the lead to prevent obesity, but they have an ethical duty to do so.”

Links

Read the letter to The Independent

The obesity series from The Lancet

Find out more about the Council's work on public health 

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