Health Secretary Alan Johnson has sent out a strong message for people to eat better and exercise more in order to curtail the burgeoning levels of obesity in the country, as he revealed more details on a new “lifestyle revolution” called Change4Life designed to help slow down the trend.

Although the dangers of obesity and its burden on the National Health Service have long been known, the real wake-up call came last year when the Foresight report predicted that, by 2050, 60% of men, 50% of women and about 25% of all children under 16 could be obese at a cost of £45 billion year. “Obesity is the biggest public health challenge the country faces. If we don't take action now we will condemn our children to reduced life expectancy,” Johnson stressed.

As reported earlier this week, the government launched the new Change4Life coalition alongside the coronation of nine ‘Healthy Towns’, which were each given a share of a £30 million pot to help them put in place initiatives to encourage residents to eat more healthily and do more physical activity.

The Change4Life scheme aims to pull together thousands of different organisations around the country which can each play a role in helping to boost the health of the nation by making it easier for people to eat well and exercise more.

Furthermore, it is hoped that the initiative will drive home the seriousness of obesity to parents, given the worrying findings of recent research by the government that: just 11.5% of parents recognise their children are overweight or obese; only 38% of adults are aware that obesity can lead to heart disease; and only 6% know of the link with cancer.

Explaining the new drive, Johnson said: “we are aiming to create a lifestyle revolution that will help families to eat well, move more and live longer. We can't start a revolution on our own - we need everyone from grassroots community clubs to multinational companies to join us”.

Thousands sign up
Already, more than 12,400 grass roots organisations, charities such as Cancer Research and Diabetes UK, Tesco, Asda, PepsiCo, Kelloggs, ITV, the Association of Convenience Stores and the Fitness Industry Association have pledged their support in a number of different ways.

For example: Tesco, with its huge customer base of 20 million a week, will tout the benefits of healthy living in its stores and plans a Change4Life 4 Less banner campaign on healthier products; PepsiCo will fund and provide its contracted sports stars for adverts to promote “active play”; and the Fitness Industry Association is planning a Change4Life promotion under which its members will offer the chance to try new activities for free.

Commenting on the coalition, Johnson said: "It's unprecedented for supermarkets to join the government and pledge to cut prices on healthy food. But this isn't an exclusive club. Anyone who promises to help families to be healthier can join”, and he called on “every CEO of every company who can influence what we eat and how we exercise to come forward and tell us how they are going to help beat this national epidemic."