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Food for thought: report published into the UK’s health

Published: 1 July 2009

Medical scientists from Southampton have contributed to a major new report published today, setting out plans to enhance the nation’s health by improving diet, increasing physical activity and cutting harmful drinking.

Professor David Coggon and Dr Nick Sheron of the University of Southampton’s School of Medicine, are among a panel of experts from health charities, consumer organisations, academia and the food and drink industry, commissioned to explore how business and government can work together to promote public health.

The report found that deaths from alcohol have doubled in the last 15 years as consumption has increased and in two decades obesity has tripled, while just 1 in 4 women and 4 in 10 men do the recommended amount of exercise.

Dr Sheron, a hepatologist at the University of Southampton and one of the UK’s leading experts on alcohol misuse explains: “Alcohol-related liver deaths in the UK have outstripped France, Spain and Italy. This report highlights the need for proper funding of alcohol services and makes the point that the Government needs to think about both minimum pricing and fiscal measures that can reduce alcohol consumption.

“We have reached the stage where hazardous and harmful drinkers are now drinking three-quarters of all the alcohol sold in the UK.”

Professor David Coggon, who researches occupational and environmental medicine at the University, adds: “We have outlined ways in which business and government could work as partners to help people live longer and healthier lives. It’s about provision of simple, clear, consistent information, and creating an environment in which it is easier for the individual to make healthy choices.”

Other recommendations of the report, commissioned by the Conservative party and chaired by Dave Lewis of Unilever, include:

- consistent delivery of key health messages by a single branded vehicle with standardised information on food packaging and in restaurants and bars
- reduction of salt, saturated fat and sugar and the complete elimination of industrial transfats in foods
- reduced portion sizes in shops and restaurants
- restriction of food advertising to children, and a full and independent review of exposure to alcohol advertising
- incentivising GPs for prevention of alcohol and other health problems, with ring-fenced PCT funding for prevention
- replacing the term ‘units’, which represent different sizes across the EU, with centilitres (cl); one UK unit is actually one centilitre of pure alcohol.

Notes for editors

  • You can find more about the report at: www.publichealthcommission.co.uk
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