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An obesity strategy to reduce COVID-19 morbidity and mortality

27 May 2021
6 min read
Volume 30 · Issue 10


Emeritus Professor Alan Glasper, from the University of Southampton, discusses the recently launched campaign in England with a package of measures to help people lose weight and mitigate effects of COVID-19


In 2020 Prime Minister Boris Johnson launched a series of policy initiatives as part of his government's new obesity strategy. The prime minster himself was admitted to an intensive care unit after being infected with the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus and succumbing to COVID-19. Following his successful treatment and discharge from hospital he acknowledged that his deterioration was probably linked to his own excess body weight. When instigating the 2020 policy Boris Johnson was well aware of the causal link between obesity and deaths from COVID-19 (Glasper, 2020).

Ryan and Caplice (2020) have suggested that adipose tissue may act as a reservoir for more extensive viral spread, with increased shedding, immune activation, and with the potential of cytokine storm amplification. Hence the connection between severity of illness in COVID-19 and obesity is now firmly established and nearly a year after the launch of the 2020 obesity strategy, it has been recognised that even more needs to be done to tackle excessive weight gain within the population. The latest obesity initiative augments the 2020 policy with a more focused aim of promoting healthier lifestyles. Confidence that tackling obesity as a way of mitigating the effects of the virus is growing, and to this end the new government plan will invest £100 million to support children, adults and families to achieve and maintain a healthier weight (Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), 2021).

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