MIDDLE-AGED Britons are being urged to get off their couches and cut down on unhealthy food as part of a Government-backed drive to make people look after themselves.
Stark warnings about the risks of drinking and obesity form part of a new Public Health England (PHE) campaign, called One You, which has been billed the biggest national health drive since Change4Life.
PHE said evidence shows that living healthily in mid-life can double a person’s chances of staying healthy aged 70 and older.
Around 40% of all deaths in England are related to poor lifestyles, such as smoking, drinking too much and being sedentary.
The NHS spends more than £11 billion a year on treating illnesses caused by the effects of diet, lack of exercise, smoking and drinking alcohol.
The direct cost to the NHS of obesity and people being overweight is estimated to be £6.1 billion a year, while lack of exercise costs around £900 million a year. Alcohol misuse costs the NHS £3.5 billion a year.
At an initial cost of £3.5 million, PHE’s One You campaign urges people to do more to look after themselves by eating better, taking exercise and shedding pounds.
A campaign across the internet, TV, social media and in public places - aimed at England but reaching other parts of the UK - will urge people to test how healthy they are via a new quiz.
Their results will be fed back to them and “behavioural changes” suggested, such as signing up to a slimming club or downloading an app to take more exercise.
The quiz asks people questions such as “how are you feeling right now?” with people able to give sliding scale responses from “really knackered” to “full of beans”.
They are asked how much they drink, if they smoke, their energy levels, how many people are dependent on them and their general mood - from “down in the dumps” to “over the moon”.
Those taking the quiz are also asked whether they feel “fat and flabby” and what stops them taking care of themselves.
Their top three health priorities, food and drink choices and sleeping habits are also analysed during the quiz.
Support is then offered such as the “couch to 5K” app download, healthy-eating recipes, an alcoholic drinks tracker and links to slimming services.
England’s chief medical officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies, said: “We all have the power to shape our future health by making simple and small changes now. One You campaign acknowledges that this can be difficult and is there to help make these changes easier.”
Professor Sir Muir Gray, clinical adviser for the One You campaign, said: “Many diseases that impact people’s health and shorten their active lives can be prevented.
“Currently, 42% of adults in mid-life are living with at least one long-term health condition which increase their risk of early death and disability.
“Although it has been customary to blame people for their lifestyle, we now appreciate that we need to take into account the environmental pressures that make it difficult to make healthy choices, having to sit eight hours a day at work for example, and then drive an hour home.”
Jonathan Isaby, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “Educational campaigns can be useful but costs must be kept down, particularly at a time when families up and down the country are having to budget hard.
“It is important that the campaign is informative rather than patronising and that large amounts of taxpayer-funded resources aren’t wasted on simply stating the obvious.”
The Institute of Economic Affairs’ head of lifestyle economics, Chris Snowdon, said: “It is astounding that this hectoring quango is squandering £3 million promoting a tedious website that nobody will visit.
“Whilst there is nothing wrong with health education, there is very little that is educational about this patronising money pit.
“Even when they are explicitly targeting middle-aged people, Public Health England cannot resist talking to us as if we were children.”
As part of the drive, Asda is providing a free blood pressure check service at all of its 255 in-store pharmacies.
BBC Get Inspired is also partnering with One You to re-launch the “couch to 5K” app, while Slimming World is offering some free memberships and an online discount.