The Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally Davies has asked the government to treat obesity in women as a national risk, effectively placing it on the same level as terror and cyber attacks. She said action is needed to "empower women and their families to live healthier."
Her 2014 annual report for the first time focuses on the health of England's female population. It is the first report that focuses on the health of England's female population and makes 17 recommendations to improve women's health.
"I'm calling on the government to elevate obesity to a national risk," she said. "Action is required across all of society to prevent obesity and its associated problems from shortening women's lives and affecting their quality of life," she said.
The national risk register of civil emergencies lists priority threats to the country. They include terror and cyber attacks, as well as natural hazards such as flu pandemics.
She continued: "We need to address the educational and environmental factors that cause obesity and empower women and their families to live healthier lives.." The report noted that in 2013, more than half or 54% of women aged 34 to 44 and almost two-thirds of women (62%) aged 45 to 54 were classified as overweight or obese.
The report also aims to "break the taboo" over health problems such as post-natal incontinence or the menopause. "Problems below the waist' are not generally seen as attractive topics for public discussion, and women are often reluctant to seek help for common disabling conditions," said Dame Sally.
"This needs to end - women should never suffer in silence," she said. The report aims to break the taboo over health problems such as post-natal incontinence or the menopause. The report also called for a national audit of ovarian cancer to boost survival rates.
Dr David Richmond, the president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists said: "Present lifestyle factors such as maternal obesity, poor diet and nutrition, lack of physical activity, high levels of alcohol consumption, smoking and poor sexual health are the ticking time bomb that can dramatically impact upon a woman's fertility and increase the risk of pregnancy complications."
He said these issues need to be addressed to enable all women to make safe and appropriate lifestyle choices. Professor Nick Finer from the University College London's Institute of Cardiovascular Services agreed, saying that obesity was now "the most pressing health issue for the nation. Estimates of the economic costs of obesity suggest they will bankrupt the NHS."
He added: "Elevating the problem of obesity to a national risk could help to address the current 'laissez faire' attitude to this huge, angry, growing health catastrophe."