The government must do more to tackle childhood obesity, the Obesity Health Alliance (OHA) has warned.
One year on from the launch of the government’s Childhood Obesity Plan, the OHA has issued a report card saying that, despite good progress, the government ‘must try harder’ to tackle the problem.
The OHA, which is made up of over 40 leading health charities, medical royal colleges and campaign groups, including Diabetes UK, recognise the progress which has been made by the Government in the last year. In particular, they praised the introduction of the soft drinks industry levy – the so called ‘Sugar Tax’ – which has led many drinks manufacturers to reduce sugar from their drinks.
But the OHA warns that the current plan does not do enough to tackle the relentless exposure of children to junk food advertising on TV and online and will not be enough to significantly reduce levels of childhood obesity which is currently at a devastating all-time high.
Caroline Cerny, Alliance Lead, said: “Good progress has been made over the last year with strong measures to reduce sugar from foods and drink and we look forward to seeing ambitious targets for industry to make the food we eat less calorific. However, we can’t ignore the fact that the food industry continues to get away with bombarding children with adverts that we know encourage unhealthy food choices.
“The existing regulations are full of loopholes and don’t reflect the way children watch TV or online content. Failing to tackle this area is significantly undermining the impact of the Childhood Obesity Plan. After one year, it is scraping along with a C grade, rather than topping the class with an A star.”
OHA Steering Group member, Professor John Wass said: “2016 marked the launch of the Government’s first comprehensive Childhood Obesity Plan. But 2016 was also the year childhood obesity rose to a new, ferocious high. As our children’s waistlines continue to increase, so do their chances of developing devastating diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular and liver disease plus associated mental health problems.
“The Government pitched this Obesity Plan as the start of the conversation. We agree this is just the start. The stronger elements of the plan are progressing well, but these alone are not enough. We now urgently need to resume that conversation, to give us the best chance of protecting our children’s future health.”
Chris Askew, Chief Executive of Diabetes UK, said: “One year on from the launch of the Government’s childhood obesity strategy it is clear that, while there has been some good progress made – by introducing both the Soft Drinks Industry Levy and the sugar reduction plan – there is still much more work to be done to tackle the obesity crisis, and in turn halt the alarming rise of type 2 diabetes.
“In particular, the Government is yet to close the loopholes that allow companies to market junk food to children during peak family TV viewing time. Relentless exposure to unhealthy food and drinks makes it very difficult for children and their families to make healthy choices and greatly influences the foods they eat. The impact of this, reflected in record rates of overweight and obese children, is impossible for the Government to ignore.
“We need bold and far-reaching action to give young people the best possible chance of a healthy future and to protect our already overstretched health service from further strain. Today’s announcement from the Government of a calorie reduction programme is an important next step, and we look forward to hearing more from the Government about how it will work in practice.”
More than one in five children are already obese or overweight in their first year of primary school, rising to over one in three by the time they leave. The OHA demands that the Government ensures that every child has the best possible start in life. Their current reluctance to combat junk food advertising is a major concern to public health campaigners. Parents and families must be enabled to make healthy food choices. Our children deserve to grow up in a healthier environment.
The vast majority of children with diabetes will have type 1 diabetes, which isn’t linked to diet or lifestyle and can’t be prevented.