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27.03.17

Government warned to take ‘robust action’ against child obesity

“Robust action” is needed to tackle the growing problem that councils are facing with addressing childhood obesity, a report released today by the Health Select Committee has warned.

In the report, ‘Childhood obesity: follow-up’, the committee said that the introduction of regulations designed to reduce unhealthy diets such as the soft drinks levy were welcome, but much more still needed to be done to push manufacturers to lower the content of sugar and portion size of their products.

To face the problem effectively, it was recommended that the government set clear goals of how it will implement its childhood obesity strategy that was published in August 2016, but has yet to be acted upon effectively.

Chair of the health committee, Dr Sarah Wollaston MP said that the committee was “extremely disappointed” that Whitehall had ignored a number of its past recommendations.

“These omissions mean that the current plan misses important opportunities to tackle childhood obesity,” she explained. “Vague statements about seeing how the current plan turns out are inadequate to the seriousness and urgency of this major public health challenge.

“The government must set clear goals for reducing overall levels of childhood obesity as well as goals for reducing the unacceptable and widening levels of inequality.”

Last year, the government were also warned that deep cuts to health visitor posts was exacerbating already serious social problems including childhood obesity and mental health

Obesity strategy ‘a missed opportunity’

Jo Bibby, director of strategy and innovation at the Health Foundation, criticised the government’s current strategy that was currently missing “important opportunities to tackle root causes of this crisis”.

“Childhood obesity is one of the most urgent public health challenges facing this country,” Bibby said, “and it requires comprehensive and robust action.

“The government needs to know if its strategy is working, and needs to act quickly if it is not, but without clear targets and goals this will be impossible.”

Childhood obesity was also described as a problem that threatened the “economic and social prosperity” of the UK, and is also “fuelling inequality”, as child obesity was found to be more than twice as prevalent in the most deprived areas of the country.

“Without a more ambitious plan that shows true leadership, the childhood obesity crisis will continue to put at risk the health and happiness of today’s children and future generations,” said Bibby.

Professor Parveen Kumar, the British Medical Association’s board of science chair, also slammed the government for its lack of vision, saying: “The government’s watered down obesity strategy was clearly a missed opportunity to tackle the growing obesity epidemic in the UK.  

“With one in five children starting primary school already overweight or obese, we welcome the committee’s call for more robust action, and urge the government to take action to curb marketing and promotions that target children.”

Top image: Gareth Fuller PA Wire

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