Government warned on reliance on food industry in obesity fight

The Government must not rely on food industry partnerships to fight obesity, say comms professionals.

Weighty problem: 60% of adults are overweight or obese
Weighty problem: 60% of adults are overweight or obese

Following the news this week that the Academy of Royal Medical Colleges is to launch its own anti-obesity campaign, the PRWeek podcast looked at the Government’s PR efforts to encourage healthy eating.

Mike Birtwistle, MD of MHP Health Mandate, and Liam McCloy, public affairs and corporate comms director at Fleishman-Hillard, both agreed that the Department of Health needed to do more to fight rising obesity levels.

Most of the Colleges’ criticism of the Government’s efforts to fight obesity focused on its links to the fast-food industry. Birtwistle recognised the need for industry partnerships but added that they are not working hard enough.

He said: ‘Partnerships are needed because you can’t tackle obesity without getting the industry on board. And public health campaigns of this significant magnitude are not sustainable in the current funding environment without external support.

‘This will not work if it’s a campaign run by PR professionals talking at and to people. This has got to be something that mobilises and engages the medical profession as well. Doctors and nurses have got to see it as part of their responsibility to promote healthy lifestyles at every single opportunity.’

McCloy agreed that stronger links with healthcare professionals were needed and that the Government must not rely on its food industry links.

‘If the Government is reliant on the food industry, then it won’t succeed. Just repeating a set of key messages and top tips is not going to get the traction that perhaps it warrants, unless we help people to think about the situation they are in and the choices they can have.’

Both also criticised the Government’s Responsibility Deal for not going far enough.

Watch the full podcast here

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