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ukactive CEO Huw Edwards has issued the following response to the Government’s obesity strategy, announced today (27 July)

The UK is facing a health crisis that extends beyond the global pandemic of COVID-19, influenced by deep-rooted economic, social and environmental factors. COVID-19 has exposed the health inequalities we face, and levels of obesity in the UK represent just one symptom of those inequalities.

We note the desire from the Government to tackle this challenge head-on. We believe that this complex issue requires a cross-party, multi-agency strategy to be successful, extending far beyond the framework announced today. This strategy must place diet, mental health and physical activity on equal footing, backed by real investment, changes in taxation and regulatory reform for the physical activity sector that will help people to be more active.

The are many facets of physical, mental, emotional, and social health that cannot be addressed through diet alone. Physical activity has a central role to play in obesity and weight management, as well as the overall improvement of health, happiness, quality of life, and economic prosperity.

The Government has the opportunity, working with its agencies and the sector, to bring plans together in the coming weeks that harness the value of physical activity. Combined with a focus on improving diet and mental health, we have a real chance to tackle health issues, including obesity, and get our nation back to health and long-term resilience.

We believe these plans should contain, as a minimum, the following interventions:

  • We must start this battle by focusing on the youngest in society, with a new model to open school sport facilities as community hubs, during out-of-school times, for children and families – places where activity, healthy eating and wellbeing is supported by local community providers. All main political parties should commit to taking this model to national scale as soon as possible, reaching more than 6,500 school facilities by 2022.
  • VAT relief and the continuation of the business rate holiday would help stimulate and revitalise our high streets and towns. In March, the Chancellor announced a business rates holiday for the leisure sector for the rest of the financial year, and this measure should be extended beyond March 2021.
  • A Workout from Work scheme which extends Cycle to Work to offer a wider array of opportunities and equipment, including fitness trackers and gym memberships. This would bring £240m in savings for the Treasury, through reduced NHS costs, improved workplace productivity, and reduced premature mortality.
  • We need to establish a more ambitious frontline preventative health system in which GPs can confidently use social prescribing services to offer patients physical activity to aid recovery and health in patients undergoing prehab, rehab or managing long-term health conditions.

These policies are ready and waiting to be activated, allowing the Government to back the physical activity sector and to provide solutions that empower communities to transform their health and wellbeing challenges.

ukactive’s members are ready to play their central role in creating a healthier, happier, stronger nation.