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'Politics should never show its face in areas of health improvement' - hospital leader urges unity in tackling obesity

PUBLISHED: 12:23 30 July 2019 | UPDATED: 12:23 30 July 2019

Nick Hulme, ESNEFT chief executive  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Nick Hulme, ESNEFT chief executive Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Archant

Rivals in politics should set aside their differences in the wider interests of tackling the obesity crisis, a hospital chief executive has urged.

Nick Hulme, chief executive of Colchester and Ipswich hospitals, said: "If there's one thing that should combine us from wherever we are on the political spectrum, it's a healthier society."

Mr Hulme Tweeted earlier this month that "I find it extraordinary that politicians are questioning attempts to reduce sugar and salt in foods" when research shows obesity is the major cause of four cancers.

He said possible solutions to encourage healthier living, such as taxes on fatty foods or subsidising healthier eating, are open for debate.

But he added: "It should never be a football that politicians use.

"Politics should never show its face in areas of health improvement.

"We should be coming together to encourage people to live the best lives they can."

Mr Hulme, who has worked in the NHS for more than 30 years, said there are "all sorts of reasons why people might make poor choices on their health".

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He highlighted that new laws can help to improve people's health - for example, the smoking ban in workplaces has led to many people kicking the habit.

While increasing tax on sugary drinks might not have caused people to stop buying them, Mr Hulme said it has forced companies to consider the health impact of their products.

However as well as taxing unhealthy foods, he said there was some merit in debating how to make healthy foods more affordable.

"One in two people are going to get cancer at some point in their lives," he said.

"We should be doing everything we can to reduce that.

"I don't think many people realise that obesity makes such a significant contribution to cancer.

"We've got to make it as easy as possible to make the right choices.

"There are growing conversations about health, wellbeing and fitness. The right conversations are happening, but there are probably not enough of them."

■ What do you think? Write, giving your full contact details, to andrew.papworth@archant.co.uk

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