Obesity in the UK: can a shocking campaign really help reduce the consequent risks? | Bolt Burdon Kemp Obesity in the UK: can a shocking campaign really help reduce the consequent risks? | Bolt Burdon Kemp

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Obesity in the UK: can a shocking campaign really help reduce the consequent risks?

You may have seen the controversial obesity campaign run by Cancer Research.  Posters were plastered all over London, on tubes and buses showing a cigarette packet with the words ‘obesity is a cause of cancer too’.

Commentators have argued that this is ‘fat shaming’ and by likening obesity to smoking the charity are making a huge statement – that like smoking, obesity is a choice.  It has been called harmful and misleading and said to be based on incomplete research.  Obesity, as we know, can be linked to a number of reasons whether it be genetic or not – so is it a choice?  Or should we be investing more in helpful ways to reduce obesity rather than these so called fat shaming posters?

However, where should we stop with campaigns?  The point of this campaign is surely to shock the audience.  This purpose has been achieved and sparked debates across the media.  Childhood and adulthood obesity is on the rise and the risks associated with obesity can be catastrophic.  A shock campaign surely goes someway in attempting to prevent these numbers from rising further and in turn preventing the associated risks from materialising.

In the Adult Brain Injury team at Bolt Burdon Kemp we see many clients who’s risks are severely complicated in necessary surgeries or cases where doctors have avoided the surgery altogether, choosing more conservative management to mitigate the risks, due to obesity.  The strain on the heart and therefore risk of going into cardiac arrest is increased meaning the risk of brain injury is also increased.

For instance, in cases of child birth, where a caesarean is needed for the health of the child and/or mother as a result of obesity, it has not been able to be performed.  Natural birth is chosen over caesarean due to the risk of anaesthetic on the mother.  This in turn causes severe distress to the mother and child.  The mother can go into cardiac arrest causing a lack of oxygen to the brain and subsequent severe brain injury.

So, how to blame are Cancer Research in this?  Could this campaign have been kinder and less ‘fat shaming’, did it need to contribute to the blame factor our society sees so regularly with obesity?  Or is it this shock element what we need to see?

There is evidence to suggest that these shock public campaigns for obesity are not sustainable in the long term and have little effect in addressing the issue.  It seems that campaigns like this are making life harder for those already shamed in society rather than adequately investing in helping those at risk of consequent health conditions.

It is my view that these campaigns cause more harm than good and end up making life harder for those who are already shamed by society.  I think without the correct education and advice it does very little to help reduce obesity and any of the associated risks.  My hope is that Cancer Research follow it up with helpful and progressive ways to reduce the health risks and level of obesity in the UK.

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