COMMONS

Childhood obesity demands bold Government action committee report finds

30 November 2015

Health Committee publishes report saying the scale and consequences of childhood obesity demand bold and urgent action from Government.

Treating obesity and its consequences is currently estimated to cost the NHS £5.1bn every year. It is one of the risk factors for type 2 diabetes, which accounts for spending of £8.8 billion a year, almost 9% of the NHS budget. The wider costs of obesity to society are estimated to be around three times this amount. By contrast, the UK spends only around £638 million on obesity prevention programmes. Ongoing cuts to public health budgets within the spending review will put prevention services under further strain.

Physical activity is enormously beneficial whatever children’s weight and increasing exercise alone will not tackle the rising toll of obesity. The Committee points to the clear evidence that measures to improve the food environment to reduce calorie intake must lie at the heart of a successful strategy.

Report findings

The report highlights nine areas for improvement. They are:

  • Strong controls on price promotions of unhealthy food and drink 
  • Tougher controls on marketing and advertising of unhealthy food and drink  
  • A centrally led reformulation programme to reduce sugar in food and drink
  • A sugary drinks tax on full sugar soft drinks, in order to help change behaviour, with all proceeds targeted to help those children at greatest risk of obesity
  • Labelling of single portions of products with added sugar to show sugar content in teaspoons
  • Improved education and information about diet
  • Universal school food standards
  • Greater powers for local authorities to tackle the environment leading to obesity
  • Early intervention to offer help to families of children affected by obesity and further research into the most effective interventions 

Chair's comment

Chair of the Health Committee, Dr Sarah Wollaston MP, says:

"One third of children leaving primary school are overweight or obese, and the most deprived children are twice as likely to be obese than the least deprived. This has serious consequences for both their current and future health and wellbeing and we cannot continue to fail these children. There are many causes and no one single or simplistic approach will provide the answer. We therefore urge the Prime Minister to make a positive and lasting difference to children’s health and life chances through bold and wide ranging measures within his childhood obesity strategy.

We believe that if the Government fails to act, the problem will become far worse. A full package of bold measures is required and should be implemented as soon as possible. We believe that a sugary drinks tax should be included in these measures with all proceeds clearly directed to improving our children’s health."

Further information

Image: iStockphoto

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