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18.07.16

Councils call for decision on delayed childhood obesity strategy

Councils will have spent £505m on trying to tackle childhood and adult obesity by the end of next year, new figures from the LGA show.

The LGA asked for reassurance from the new government that the delayed childhood obesity strategy is still on track in order to avoid the growing cost of obesity.

Councils spent £238m on obesity reduction between 2013, when they received control of public health, and 2015.

They are estimated to spend £140m in 2015-16, but this will fall to £127m in 2016-17 because of central government cuts.

The estimated spending for 2015-16 includes £72m on adult obesity, £39m on childhood obesity and £29m on the national child measurement programme.

Cllr Izzi Seccombe, the LGA’s community wellbeing portfolio holder, said: “The staggering amount of money councils are having to plough into obesity prevention work shows the sheer scale of the crisis we face.

“Councils are without doubt the best placed to tackle obesity before it becomes a problem, and the huge investment they are making shows how committed they are to dealing with the issue.

“But we would like assurances from the government's new administration that the long-awaited childhood obesity strategy is still on track and that it includes tough measures that will help to reverse the rise in costs and children becoming obese.

“Today's obese children will be tomorrow's obese adults, and with this comes a range of costly and debilitating major health conditions.”

The overall cost to the economy of obesity and overweight conditions is estimated to increase from £6-£8bn in 2015 to £10-£12bn in 2030 if current trends are not reversed.

The publication of the childhood obesity strategy has been subject to delays and was due this summer, but it is not known how this will be affected by the new government.

DH has yet to agree final strategy

Last week, Theresa May took over as prime minister from David Cameron following the UK’s vote to leave the EU, although Jeremy Hunt has kept his post as health secretary.

A Department of Health (DH) spokesperson told PSE that discussions about the childhood obesity strategy with the new government “have yet to happen”.

However, the DH added: “Any suggestion that we are diminishing the ambition or the measures we take to reduce child obesity are quite wrong. There isn’t yet a final version of the obesity strategy.

“The new prime minister and the cabinet will be working over coming days and weeks to establish their priorities and how we deliver on these commitments.”

The LGA has called for the government to introduce measures including calorie counts on restaurant menus and a reduction in sugar in soft drinks to tackle the issue of childhood obesity.

Public Health England figures show that in 2014-15, 19.1% of children in England in Year 6 were obese and 14.2% were overweight.

The next edition of PSE will feature an article by Tam Fry from the National Obesity Forum on the obesity strategy.

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