Promoting unhealthy lifestyles

Meeting: 
Plenary on 2014-06-18
Session date: 
June 18, 2014
Reference: 
2014/2285
Question By: 
Jenny Jones
Organisation: 
City Hall Greens
Asked Of: 
Lord Darzi, Chair of the London Health Commission
Category: 

Question

You recently conducted a poll which found education about health lifestyles was the most popular priority. Should the public sector therefore rule out cross-promotion and partnerships with food and drink companies strongly associated with high calorie products linked to childhood obesity?

Answer

Answer for Promoting unhealthy lifestyles

Answer for Promoting unhealthy lifestyles

Answered By: 
Lord Darzi, Chair of the London Health Commission

Professor the Lord Darzi (Chair, London Health Commission): Looking at all the challenges facing us, if we are really not going to take this issue seriously, we are going to continue to deliver healthcare through a system that is designed as being a sickness service, rather than a wellbeing service.  If I could just say that is the bit that excited me most when the Mayor asked me to review this, because it is the first time that I have seen local government and the Mayoral office really taking this thing head on. 

 

Jenny Jones AM:  Lord Darzi, I do not understand how you can say that because the Mayor did start a programme called the Capital Clean-up which is a good scheme but he linked it with McDonald’s, a junk food seller.  How can that be okay?  As part of the scheme, which again I say is a good one, they had to promote McDonald’s afterwards in their literature.  How can that be a good thing for children? 

 

Professor the Lord Darzi (Chair, London Health Commission):  Could I just say I might be sitting as his Chair but I am not the Mayor. 

 

Jenny Jones AM:  No, but I ask you the question you seem to think the Mayor is doing a lot and I am telling you he is ‑‑

 

Professor the Lord Darzi (Chair, London Health Commission):  No, I am not.  I am saying I have had discussions throughout this period of the Commission, four months, and the Mayor has quite a big appetite in dealing with this issue.

 

Jenny Jones AM:  You have not answered my question.

 

Professor the Lord Darzi (Chair, London Health Commission):  I will answer your question.  You had better ask the Mayor that the next time you see him. 

 

Jenny Jones AM:  No, no, my written question was: should the public sector therefore rule out cross commercial partnerships with food and drink companies strongly associated with high calorie products linked to childhood obesity?

 

Professor the Lord Darzi (Chair, London Health Commission):  Could I just come back and say what we are talking about here is a behavioural issue and there is huge science now around the world which comes from behavioural economics.  There are three ways in which you can deal in changing people’s behaviour.  There is taxation.  There is regulation and there are other ways of doing it, which is nudging.  You are asking me in many ways should we stop talking to industry?  My advice to that would be we should ‑‑

 

Jenny Jones AM:  No, I am not asking that.  I said should we rule out cross promotion and partnerships.  That is quite different.  That is not talking.

 

Professor the Lord Darzi (Chair, London Health Commission):  I think we should be working with industry to promote healthier lifestyles, healthier eating. 

 

Jenny Jones AM:  How can that be done when you are working with a company that sells high-sugar, high-fat, highly processed food and drink?  How can that be done? 

 

Professor the Lord Darzi (Chair, London Health Commission):  I am not working with any company that sells high-sugar ‑‑

 

Jenny Jones AM:  No, but the Mayor of London is.  You are chairing the London Health Commission.  I am asking you for your view of the fact that the Mayor is using McDonald’s in schools.  Does that sound like a good idea to you? 

 

Professor the Lord Darzi (Chair, London Health Commission):  I am not going to get into the politics of this. 

 

Jenny Jones AM:  It is not politics.  This is facts.  This is what the Mayor has done. 

 

Professor the Lord Darzi (Chair, London Health Commission):  You should be asking the Mayor this question. 

 

Jenny Jones AM:  I am asking you.  You are the Chair of the London Health Commission. 

 

Professor the Lord Darzi (Chair, London Health Commission):  I am, yes. 

 

Jenny Jones AM:  In London, one in five children is obese.  You have a figure of 37% overweight or obese but overweight is quite a varied figure.  One in five children is obese, and the Mayor has used McDonald’s in schools.  I am asking you if you think that is a good idea. 

 

Professor the Lord Darzi (Chair, London Health Commission):  I really do not know what he is doing with schools or what the intervention is, so it would be most unfair for me to be giving an opinion about this. 

 

Jenny Jones AM:  Why do you not know about this and why have you not commented on it? 

 

Professor the Lord Darzi (Chair, London Health Commission):  I do not go around and find out what the Mayor is saying to whom and what.  I am here to look at the evidence base, what interventions we need to do when it comes to better health.  I have made it very clear.  I could not agree more with you.  I will make the case extremely strongly.  I will give you another figure.  9% of kids going to primary school are obese, by the time they leave, 19% of them are obese.  What I am trying to say is it is not just the food industry.  This is a much bigger and much more complex set of interventions that you have to bring together in implementing change, and I gave you the three headlines.  You can do this through taxation, which we have seen in smoking -- 

 

Jenny Jones AM:  I remember.  I am terribly disappointed with your answer.  I really, really am.  I am presuming you have read the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges’ report on obesity that they produced last year. 

 

Professor the Lord Darzi (Chair, London Health Commission):  Yes, I have.  It was very good. 

 

Jenny Jones AM:  It was measuring up the medical profession’s prescription for the nation’s obesity crisis.  We in this Chamber debated that.  We put a motion to the Mayor urging him to pick up their recommendations because of the whole issue with McDonald’s, and we voted it through.  We feel quite strongly in this Chamber about dealing with obesity in a proactive way. 

 

Professor the Lord Darzi (Chair, London Health Commission):  Yes, yes.  If you give me a chance to answer, the answer is yes.  I am a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences and I strongly support the output that they have given.  You are asking me to specifically answer a McDonald’s question, which I do not know anything about, and I am not going to answer that. 

 

Jenny Jones AM:  I will write to you. 

 

Professor the Lord Darzi (Chair, London Health Commission):  That is what I am trying to say to you.  Let me just come back to what matters.  What matters out there, you are absolutely right.  We have a huge burden of disease, whether that is obesity and may I just say smoking as I raised it before.  We have to do something about this and we have a set of different interventions that are evidence based that we can introduce into this Commission.  We are thinking it through.  We have a whole theme and an expert working group helping us through this in tackling the issue of obesity and I could go through some of the proposals if you wish me. 

 

Jenny Jones AM:  Do you think it is a good idea to involve junk food sellers in school projects so that the schools after that have to promote their goods?  Is that a good idea?  I would have thought as a doctor, as a surgeon, you would have said, no, it is not a good idea. 

 

Professor the Lord Darzi (Chair, London Health Commission):  As I said, I do not know the context of the question you are asking me. 

 

Jenny Jones AM:  No, I am asking generally. 

 

Professor the Lord Darzi (Chair, London Health Commission):  Let me just say to you, absolutely, we should be working in partnership with the food industry to ensure that we get them to change and address ‑‑

 

Jenny Jones AM:  But introducing them to schools –

 

Professor the Lord Darzi (Chair, London Health Commission):  ‑‑ to induce them to deal with these big public health challenges.