Britain is eating and drinking to excess and the nation’s health is paying the price. That is the conclusion being drawn from a new government report – “A Health Profile of England.” It is seen as giving a snapshot of the overall picture of the UK. The biggest worry is obesity, with rates in England the highest in Europe.
Research showed that 900,000 children under the age of 11 are obese, that is an increase of almost 50 percent in the past decade. The problem is most acute in the north east of England. It is calculated one in five youngsters are obese compared to just under 7 percent in the rest of the European Union.
Poor eating habits from an early age are regarded as the main culprit. The government has launched a number of initiatives but recognises more needs to be done. Parents of severely overweight children could now be sent letters warning them of the health dangers involved. Again, comparisons are being made with the rest of Europe where people eat substantially more fresh fruit.
But over-indulgence in food is far from being the only concern. Abuse of alcohol is having a similarly damaging effect. Drink-related deaths, caused by conditions like chronic liver disease and cirrhosis, are rising in England while they are dropping in the EU as a whole.
The number of women dying at an early age from alcohol abuse has almost doubled in the last 15 years. In the 1970s the rate was among the lowest in the Union. With the figures making grim reading for the government, Prime Minister Gordon Brown has ordered a review of new regulations allowing 24-hour drinking.
The state health service is struggling to cope with the surge in health problems related to obesity and alcohol abuse. One in three local health authorities are shown as failing financially. On the positive side, the report highlights progress in dealing with heart disease and cancer. But it does little to take the pressure off a government facing growing demands to tackle the social trends underlying the nation’s health problems.