The UK is spending most of taxpayer's money fighting off obesity rather than improving fire or police services, the National Health Service (NHS) chief has revealed.
NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said that much of their agency's task is relegated to finding ways of combatting the obesity crisis and the modifiable lifestyle factors associated with its such as smoking, heavy alcohol consumption and sedentary lifestyle.
Stevens said that the annual medical cost of diabetes and related diseases amount to about £16 billion (approximately US$ 23.3 billion) compared to only £13.6 billion (approximately US$ 19.8 billion) spent on fire and police services combined.
Based on the numbers alone, billions of taxpayer's money could be saved if the obesity crisis is properly addressed. Stevens said that it is important to address childhood obesity.
"Action to take added sugar out of food and drinks, as we have successfully done with salt over the last 15 years, that will show up as reduced rates of type two diabetes, reduced rates of diabetic blindness, amputations," said Stevens while addressing the MPs on the Commons Health Select Committee.
Stevens cited their earlier measure of reducing salt intake has saved the agency about £1.5 billion (approximately US$2.18 billion) since 2001, doing the same for sugar consumption would also provide the same results. He believes that having stringent measures on sugar tax would be significant.
Taxpayers' Alliance chief executive Jonathan Isaby is one with Stevens in raising awareness about obesity but did not agree on the issue of sugar tax. Rather than meddling with the source of income of poor families, the agency must focus on educating and promoting personal responsibility to create lasting diet modifications.
Britain's Obesity Crisis
From 1993 to 2014, the prevalence of obesity among individuals aged 16 years old and above increased from 14.9 percent to 25.6 percent. Obesity is estimated to affect 60 percent of men, 50 percent of women and 25 percent of children by 2050.
The latest figures of the National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) showed that as much as 19 percent of children aged 10-11 years old are obese.
In a joint study by Cancer Research UK and University College London, they found that one of the contributing factors in obesity crisis is that many obese individuals deny the fact that they are obese. Being obese is so common that it becomes the "normal."
"We need to establish better ways for health professionals to address this sensitive subject and communicate with people whose health would benefit from positive lifestyle changes," said Professor Jane Wardle from the UCL.