Intended for healthcare professionals

Observations Public Health

Chief medical officer urges action to tackle overweight and obesity

BMJ 2014; 348 doi: (Published 27 March 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g2375
  1. Simon J Howard, public health specialty registrar,
  2. Sally C Davies, chief medical officer for England
  1. 1Office of the Chief Medical Officer, Department of Health, London, UK
  1. sjhoward{at}

A “sugar tax” may be one possible sanction if the food and drink industry fails to reduce sugar content voluntarily

Almost two thirds of adults and a third of children are overweight or obese.1 This represents a profound change in the health of the nation over recent decades: in 1980 around 7% of adults were obese,2 whereas today the proportion is around 25%.1 The prevalence of overweight and obesity is discussed so often that the statistics have become familiar to many of us, yet the statistics remain profoundly alarming.

Overweight and obesity are associated with an increased risk of hypertension, type 2 diabetes, musculoskeletal disease, stroke, cardiovascular disease, several cancers, and other diseases. The causes of overweight and obesity are multifactorial, complex, and not fully understood. Yet the alarming prevalence compels us to use evidence based interventions and act, at individual and population levels, even while research into the underlying causes continues.

The Annual Report of the Chief Medical Officer, Surveillance Volume 2012: On the State of the Public’s Health, published this week,3 sets out increasing concern regarding society’s normalisation of overweight. In England the average man weighs around 84 kg and is 175 cm tall, and the average …

View Full Text

Log in

Log in through your institution


* For online subscription