As the media’s spotlight falls on junk food marketing, sugar and childhood obesity, Johanna Ralston – CEO of the World Obesity Federation – urges decision-makers to act now
In the late 1940s, Professor Jerry Morris set out on a study comparing the health of London’s bus drivers with its conductors. The results were startling. Conductors, who climbed stairs and walked an average of 10,000 steps every day, were at lower risk for cardiovascular ‘events’ than their sedentary counterparts behind the wheel of the bus. For the first time an explicit link had been made between people who worked in less physically active jobs and chronic heart disease. In an era where access to a gym was rare and advertisements might herald cigarette smoke as being ‘better for your health’, the connection between exercise and health was anything but obvious.
Seventy years on from this study the world is still trying to work out how to act on its discoveries. In what environment would people take positive steps about what they eat and how they exercise? Three quarters of UK children spend less time outdoors than prison inmates, and sedentary living conditions are on the rise in London and across the whole world: people are consuming more calories without any additional exercise.
The global will to act is greater than it has ever been
It isn’t only physical activity and heart disease that need to be addressed. Obesity acts as a gateway to a number of chronic diseases, now known as non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. The global will to act is greater than it has ever been but existing commitments to tackle obesity need to be put into place to counter the pandemic of obesity.
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