Oldham campaigner welcomes obesity shake-up, but urges PM to have the energy to do more

Date published: 27 July 2020

Oldham-based national health campaigner Dr Zahid Chauhan OBE has broadly welcomed Boris Johnson’s plans to introduce a sugar tax and ad ban on junk food.

But the medic who has worked on the front-line against COVID-19, believes that instead of these slim pickings, the PM could also have banned energy drinks and better regulated the opening of a myriad of milkshake bars and take-aways, especially outside of schools.

Morally, he also questioned how any of us can live in a world where obesity and starvation go hand-in-hand.

“People who question why sanctions are needed to curb the junk food suppliers and retailers should just look at the situation we are in at present,” said Dr Chauhan,

“Whilst I am not saying obesity causes COVID-19, it does appear that those in better shape have better chances of surviving the virus.

"Away from coronavirus, we have totally unacceptable levels of heart disease and young children suffer everything from tooth decay to chest pains.

"Even their education is affected by an inability to concentrate – caused by poor nutrition and dangerous energy drinks.”

So fast-moving is the world, that Dr Chauhan believes that many people don’t eat the sustaining meals they require and instead replace them with quickly made, sugar and chemical filled fodder from fast-food joints.

“It doesn’t help that quality food can be over-priced and that we still have this view that certain foods are treats and the good for you stuff is somehow boring,” he added.

The founder of the Homeless-Friendly charity is particularly concerned that disadvantaged areas and certain ethnic groups are hit the hardest.

“Bargain-based alcohol retailers and cheap takeaways seem to be around every corner, and many are deliberately sited outside of schools," Dr Chauhan added. 

"Why don’t planning applications include more stringent examination of what a new premises might do to the health of neighborhoods?

"South Asian people are genetically more susceptible to Type 2 Diabetes.

"Where is the drive to reach those communities, provide tailored exercise opportunities and better support with nutrition?”

What Dr Chauhan wants the Prime Minister to do, is:

*       Ban the sale of energy drinks which contain twice the caffeine a full sugared can of coke possesses

*       Do yet more to label salt and sugar content in food in supermarkets. Health warnings similar to those emblazoned on cigarette packets might help

*       Offer incentives and powers to councils to refuse planning permission for takeaways which are planning to set up shop outside of schools

Said Dr Chauhan: “While worthy, the myriad of health campaigns are just not reaching the ears of certain sectors in society and in particular, those who put wealth ahead of health.

"Sanction is now the answer.

"We have seen what devastation a virus can do, improving our diets is prudent preparation for a coming pandemic.

"But, what I would also like all of us to think about, is that whilst we are trying to trim the fat, others in this world are dying of starvation.

"This should spur us on to be better human beings and aid charities here and abroad.

"For a start, we could help to stock foodbanks with food that will feed our most vulnerable.”

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