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Childhood obesity plan lets down children

The government has today (18 August) published Childhood Obesity: a plan for action. Commenting on the report, Professor John Middleton, President of the Faculty of Public Health (FPH) said: "We welcome the fact that the government has produced this plan to tackle childhood obesity, which includes measures for reformulation, the introduction of a sugar tax, an exercise plan for schools, a standard for public sector food procurement and the reinstatement of a healthy schools standard.

"However, this plan lets down a generation of children by not going far enough to tackle childhood obesity. We are at a crisis point: if we are successful in tackling childhood obesity, we will give all children, particularly those from the most deprived backgrounds, the best start in life so they can grow up to be healthy adults.

"If we fail, it is children and their families who will pay the price, as well as the tax payer, because of the estimated £4.2 billion costs to the NHS of treating obesity in everyone. We must not become blasé about the risks that obesity poses to the one in five children who are obese by the time they are 10. An obese child’s weight can cause them significant health problems and make it more likely they will develop life-limiting diseases like Type 2 diabetes.
“FPH remains fully supportive of a duty on sugary drinks a part of a wider strategy to tackle childhood obesity, and is very disappointed that the necessary, evidence based measures to make the duty a success are not included in this report. These include tougher regulations of junk food marketing to children, particularly online, where there are far fewer restrictions.

"We are disappointed that some in the food industry have been claiming that a sugar duty would lead to job losses: in fact, it would be good news for the wider economy as well as our health, because of the money saved from treating obesity-related health conditions. People living in the most deprived circumstances have the most to gain from the duty, because they are more likely to experience health problems caused by a poor diet that is high in sugar.
“As Team GB’s Olympic success shows, achieving world class results requires every member of a team to work together: no single measure will not combat childhood obesity. We are very disappointed that the sugar duty is the only one of 11 evidence-based measures that are included in this report, and that the government has failed to adopt the comprehensive evidence compiled by Public Health England.
“We know from independent analysis of the responsibility deal that five years of voluntary agreement with industry has largely failed to address this crisis. There is no evidence that voluntary approaches are effective. The previous Chancellor told parliament he did not want to duck the difficult decisions and tell his children’s generation that we did nothing to tackle childhood obesity. We and the wider public health community want to see the new government show the same commitment to child health by taking bold action. FPH is a member of the Obesity Health Alliance and we support their frustration that this report from government will let down a generation of children.”

Written: 18/08/2016 , last modified: 18/10/2016