Health Service Focus

10.10.19

RCN responds to damning childhood obesity report

As part of her final work as Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Professor Dame Sally Davies, has published a report named ‘Time to solve childhood obesity’.

The report is aimed at politicians and policy makers rather than parents and claims the government should prioritise children’s health ahead of companies’ profits.

The 96-page-report outlines UK ambitions to have halved childhood obesity by 2030, despite England being ‘nowhere near’ achieving it.

One study revealed that an average of six primary school children out of a class of 30 are obese and a further four are overweight. A number which has doubled over the past 30 years.

It also showed that children living in the most deprived areas are disproportionately affected.

Some of the health impacts of childhood obesity are asthma, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and joint pain – all of which would rely on the NHS for treatment.

She is calling on politicians to ensure that healthy food is more affordable, unhealthy food is less widely marketed and children have the chance to live and play in a healthy and safe environment.

Portion sizes are targeted as research shows that food sizes have increased and it encourages people to eat more.

Davies said in her report:

“Excess weight has slowly crept up on us all and is now often accepted as normal. This is a matter of health not about how children look. Too often discussion about weight is heard as stigmatizing and laying the blame on individuals.”

“The science is increasingly clear, genes and inheritance do affect individual risk, but it is the profound changes in the living environment that are shaping everybody’s behaviour and making it much harder for us all to be a healthy weight.”

Commenting on the report, , Royal College of Nursing, professional lead for Public Health, Helen Donovan, said:

"The suggestions from this report could help make future generations healthier and happier and we are pleased to see that the demands we have been making for over a decade are receiving the attention they deserve.

"Unhealthy foods, such as those high in sugar and salt not only do lasting damage to children that extends into adulthood but also cause stress for families and stores up problems for the health service further down the line.

"But the truth is that the nurses who start the conversation with parents about childhood obesity have long advocated the idea that investing in preventative health keeps people out of hospital. However, these same nurses have been fighting an uphill battle, on the one hand against corporations who have resisted reform and used advertising to manipulate childrens’ diets, and on the other against sustained cuts to public health spending and a significant reduction in the numbers of school nurses and health visitors who perform vital early interventions with families and children.”

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