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Health secretary to call for national obesity movement

Alan Johnson will speak tonight of the "moral duty" to tackle obesity in a major talk on the growing epidemic.

Thehealth secretary will tonight (23 July 2008) call for a nationalmovement to tackle the growing problem of obesity by encouragingcitizens to live healthy lives.

In a major speech on the obesityepidemic, Alan Johnson will outline the public health implications andargue that our strategy to combat obesity will only succeed if everypart of society joins together to address it.

Speaking at theFabian Society tonight, Alan Johnson will say: "Obesity is the biggesthealth challenge we face. Over the last 60 years, the number of peoplewho are severely overweight has risen steadily.

"There is a veryreal danger that today's children will be the first to live shorterlives than their parents and spend more of their years in poor health.

"Justas the government has a moral duty to tackle poverty and exclusion, soit also has a duty to address obesity. But this is not a licence tohector and lecture people on how they should spend their lives - notleast because this simply won't work.

"Tackling obesity requiresa much broader partnership, not only with families, but with employers,retailers, the leisure industry, the media, local government and thevoluntary sector. We need a national movement that will bring about afundamental change in the way we live our lives."

Mr Johnsonwill also say that, rather than "vilifying the extremely fat", theissue of obesity should be presented "more intelligently".

Inhis speech, Mr Johnson will say: "If you explain to parents that manychildren, regardless of their size, have dangerous levels of fat intheir arteries or around their organs, and this may reduce their lifeexpectancy by up to 11 years, then people respond."

"We arecalling on everyone - from the smallest community keep-fit class to thebiggest retailers in the land - to join in this campaign to change theway we live our lives."

Department of Health