The Government should not let its drive for health certification stall at Covid-19 passports. If it is serious about saving lives and promoting personal responsibility then it must target the avoidable and identifiable disease of obesity.
It’s an absurd idea, of course. Yet as a thought experiment, it perfectly illustrates the dangers of handing such powers over to government.
In the same way that we can now test for Covid, we have long had the medical know-how to spot obesity. We use the body mass index (BMI) to identify people of a healthy weight. Those with a BMI above 25 are deemed to be overweight, those with one over 30 are classed as obese.
And obesity is no laughing matter. The British Medical Journal recently carried research conducted in the United States which suggests that a BMI of 30 or more increases the risk of Covid-19 hospitalisation by 113 per cent, admission to intensive care by 74 per cent and death by 48 per cent. Public Health England has reported that your risk of dying from Covid-19 increases by 90 per cent if you have a BMI of over 40. It is an inescapable fact that a great many hospital beds, doctors and NHS resources have been absorbed over the past year by the clinically obese.
The Government’s own research shows that 63 per cent of adults in England are overweight and 27 per cent of all adults are obese, with a BMI above 30. The cost of this fat epidemic to the NHS and wider economy is put at £27 billion a year. How many lives could be saved and improved with this £27 billion? It is clear that by sucking resource away from deserving illnesses and social causes, the obese kill those of a healthy weight.
But at last change might be possible. In the same way that people will soon have to prove their Covid status, we could also be at the stage where technology could be deployed to monitor people’s obesity status. Such a breakthrough would finally allow the state to restrict the overweight’s access to certain dining facilities and high-calorie foods.
Think of it. Upon entering a restaurant, the business could scan a mobile phone app that showed your BMI. Those within the healthy range could order what they wished off the menu, while the overweight could be restricted to ordering size-limited portions. As for the obese, they could be asked to settle for a salad or simply invited to leave. For takeaway orders, companies such as Just Eat or Deliveroo could use the same data, taken over the telephone, to weed out the obese from placing a fast-food order. In supermarkets, your BMI status could be scanned at checkout, with fatter customers having certain foods removed from their baskets or replaced with healthier options.
People’s weight does change and restrictions on accessing high calorie food may cause some to want to lose weight. Any fluctuations in your body mass could be captured monthly at NHS weigh-in stations, with your new weight and BMI immediately uploaded on to your smartphone.
At all times it has to be remembered this scheme is voluntary. There will be no requirement to carry a BMI certificate, but the Government should make clear that any restaurateur or fast-food chain must assume that a person not in possession of such a certificate is obese and therefore should not be served.
It is absolutely the case that being overweight and obese is a choice, but it is only right that choices carry consequences. Why should those 37 per cent of us adults who aren’t fat have to put up with the selfish conduct of the wilfully heavy. No, fat people have had it easy for too long. Removing them from fast-food chains, restaurants and the snack aisles of supermarkets will be both good for them and good for us. Clamping down on the voluntarily obese will free up money, beds and resources in the NHS. Quite frankly, it will save lives.
Of course I don’t believe in taking any of the above actions – in fact, even suggesting them makes me feel ill. But I can certainly make a reasonable argument for them, in the same way that many people are making the argument for vaccine passports. Please, given what is at stake in the complex relationship between citizen and Government, let us all tread cautiously and be careful what we wish for.
Sir Charles Walker is Conservative MP for Broxbourne
Source: The Telegraph
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Author: Charles Walker
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