War against childhood obesity has ‘stalled’: health campaigners

By Noli Dinkovski contact

- Last updated on GMT

Faster progress is needed if the Government’s target of halving childhood obesity by 2030 was to be met, says the Obesity Health Alliance
Faster progress is needed if the Government’s target of halving childhood obesity by 2030 was to be met, says the Obesity Health Alliance
Progress in reducing childhood obesity has “stalled” in the wake of the ongoing Brexit negotiations and the contest for a new Prime Minister, health campaigners and the Labour Party have argued.

A year on from the publishing of chapter 2 of the Government’s childhood obesity plan, faster progress was needed if its target of halving childhood obesity by 2030 was to be met, the Obesity Health Alliance (OHA) said.

While acknowledging the “complex political environment”​, the OHA pointed to the fact that nothing had been heard on two consultations – banning the sale of energy drinks to children, and mandatory calorie labelling in the out-of-home sector – despite them both closing in December 2018.

In addition, the Government missed its own deadline to launch promotions and marketing consultations before the end of the 2018, the OHA claimed.

Consumer survey results

The OHA used the anniversary of the obesity plan to publish the results of a consumer survey that found 86% of the public thought childhood obesity was a ‘serious problem’.

“A year ago, the Government showed bold ambition, announcing a raft of evidence-based measures with the potential to dramatically improve child health – but 12 months on, progress seems to have stalled,” ​said Caroline Cerny, alliance lead at the OHA.

“There is a danger that a new Prime Minister might take us in a different direction, but the public has spoken – and a leader who can get us to the destination quicker is going to win favour with voters.”

Sharon Hodgson, Labour’s shadow minister for public health, accused the Government’s “snail’s pace”​ approach to childhood obesity as “window-dressing”​.

Conservatives failing to take serious action

While she recognised there was no silver bullet to combating the problem, Hodgson claimed the Conservatives weren’t taking any serious action to tackle it.

“It doesn’t take seven months to analyse the feedback from a consultation and announce a policy, especially when it is a policy that is backed by evidence.”

The Government marked the anniversary of the plan by pledging a total of £1.5m to five local councils.

Planned programmes include a scheme by Birmingham City Council to offer health, food, nutrition and physical activity-focused apprenticeships for 15- to 19-year-olds in deprived areas, where obesity rates are highest.

Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England, said: “From expert local knowledge to local authority intervention, community support and government action, we all have crucial roles to play in combating obesity.”

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