Government's 'growth-at-all-costs' agenda will damage health, says BMA

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The government must consider a healthy population as a major driver of economic success, the BMA has said calling the prime minister’s plans a ‘dash for GDP growth at all costs.’

In its recent Valuing Health report, the BMA found that life expectancy is stalling in the UK as well as a ‘significant’ rise in chronic diseases, such as diabetes.

Against this backdrop, the government is reviewing its anti-obesity strategy for England, including ditching plans for a ban on TV advertising of junk food before 9pm. A ban on multi-buy deals was meant to come into force in October.

The government has rowed back on key aspects of its anti-obesity campaign which were aimed at steering people to make healthier choices. Photograph: iStock

There are also reports that the sugar tax will be scrapped as well as the tobacco control plan which would have aimed to create the first smoke free generation by 2026.

The loosening of measures is part of a wider deregulation drive that the Prime Minister Liz Truss hopes will kick-start economic growth.

But the BMA, in its report, says that a narrow focus on economic growth is ‘damaging population health.’

Former BMA president Professor Neena Modi, who led the report, said: “Government policy at present does not appear to recognise the fundamental necessity of protecting and improving population health. The recent mini-budget with its dash for GDP growth at all costs is a prime example of this mindset.

“With public health spending declining and inequality rising, the price will be paid by a less healthy population that will be less economically productive.”

Government policies to tackle obesity have failed to reduce obesity for the past 30 years, a paper by Cambridge university professors has found.

Doctor Dolly R.Z Theis and Professor Martin White analysed 14 government strategies published from 1992 to 2020 containing 689 wide-ranging policies. Policies were largely proposed in a way that would be ‘unlikely to lead to implementation’, they found.

The paper says governments should prioritise policies that have the potential for population-wide reach rather than putting the responsibility purely on individuals and learn from previous policy failures.

British Medical Association's Valuing Health report here



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