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Cuts in public health spending 'threaten anti-obesity efforts'

By Tom Walker    18 Jul 2016
Council have spent £505m on tackling obesity since 2013, with measures such as free sport and swimming / Shutterstock

Local councils in England have warned that government cuts to public health funding could thwart efforts to tackle obesity.

Newly published figures from the Local Government Association (LGA) show that councils expect to spend £127m on tackling obesity during the financial year 2016-17 – down from £140m spent in 2015-16.

The spending is used on providing leisure facilities, weight management services, exercise referral schemes and extending the offer of free or reduced-cost sport, such as swimming. The numbers also include the cost of running the government's National Child Measurement Programme, which councils are responsible for.

Public health became the responsibility of local authorities in April 2013, when they took over the role from the NHS.

Since the transfer of responsibilities, the LGA estimates that councils have spent £505m on tackling obesity in adults and children.

Izzi Seccombe, LGA's community wellbeing portfolio holder, said: "The staggering amount of money councils are having to plough into obesity prevention work shows the sheer scale of the crisis we face.

"We would like assurances from the government's new administration that the long-awaited childhood obesity strategy is still on track and that it includes tough measures that will help to reverse the rise in costs and children becoming obese.

"Today's obese children will be tomorrow's obese adults, and with this comes a range of costly and debilitating major health conditions."

A study by McKinsey and Company in 2014 estimated that obesity was a greater burden on the UK's economy than armed violence, war and terrorism, costing the country nearly £47bn a year.

obesity  local government 
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