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Report on Food and Health Forum on 16th May 2023

Attendees from NNEdPro – Kathy Martyn, Ramya Rajaram, Ilakkiya Ezhilmaran

The Food and Health Forum convened a panel of experts to discuss the UK government policy regarding obesity and its approach to addressing the psychological aspects of the issue. The main speaker, Genese Radcliff, shed light on several key points related to government policy and its implications for individuals living with obesity.

Radcliff raised major concerns about implicit messaging on obesity policy. She highlighted that government policies often focus solely on prevention and fail to adequately address the needs of individuals already living with obesity. The lack of attention to this demographic can contribute to stigmatization and isolation.

Radcliff also discussed the tiered approach to weight management services, noting that specialist services are often limited. This lack of access to evidence-based treatments can further exacerbate the challenges faced by individuals with obesity.

Another issue highlighted by Radcliff was the perception of obesity as a lifestyle choice and the emphasis on personal responsibility. This perspective can overlook the complex interplay of genetic, psychological, and environmental factors contributing to obesity. Consequently, policies often neglects weight maintenance and long-term support.

The psychological impact of obesity and the bidirectional relationship between psychological difficulties and obesity were discussed as crucial factors. Radcliff emphasized that harsh messaging can be counterproductive and contribute to a vicious cycle of health consequences. It was suggested that embedding psychology as an integral part of obesity treatments could provide better outcomes.

The next speaker, Lord Bethel, former Health Minister, discussed the "Great Wakefield KFC disaster," highlighting the need for a fallback plan within the National Health Service (NHS) to address behavioural and mentality changes.

Bethel expressed the importance of a two-way contract between the government and individuals, emphasizing that access to behavioural change support should not be limited to a one-way contract. He also raised concerns about the access dilemma in the NHS, caused by the tension between neoliberalism and the "black box" of the healthcare system.

The "Great Wakefield KFC disaster" was referenced to illustrate the correlation between exposure to fast food and obesity, particularly among children. Bethel suggested that local leaders often lack the agency to bring about environmental changes and promote healthier options.

The forum chair highlighted the UK government's inconsistent stance on advertising regulations, specifically regarding the ban on advertising unhealthy food on Transport for London (TFL) platforms. Concerns were raised about the impact of this ban on revenue and the need for more comprehensive measures to tackle the issue effectively.

Overall, the speakers highlighted the shortcomings of current government policies in addressing the psychological aspects of obesity and the need for a more comprehensive and inclusive approach. They emphasized the importance of considering the broader societal and environmental factors that contribute to obesity. In addition, they stressed the need for accessible and evidence-based treatments and support services.

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