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Tougher measures and clear goals needed to curb child obesity, warn MPs

“Robust action” is needed to tackle the growing problem that councils are facing with addressing childhood obesity, a report released today by the Health Select Committee has warned.

In the report, ‘Childhood obesity: follow-up’, the committee said that the introduction of regulations designed to reduce unhealthy diets such as the soft drinks levy were welcome, but much more still needed to be done to push manufacturers to lower the content of sugar and portion size of their products.

To face the problem effectively, it was recommended that the government set clear goals of how it will implement its childhood obesity strategy that was published in August 2016, but has yet to be acted upon effectively.

Chair of the health committee, Dr Sarah Wollaston MP said that the committee was “extremely disappointed” that Whitehall had ignored a number of its past recommendations.

“These omissions mean that the current plan misses important opportunities to tackle childhood obesity,” she explained. “Vague statements about seeing how the current plan turns out are inadequate to the seriousness and urgency of this major public health challenge.

“The government must set clear goals for reducing overall levels of childhood obesity as well as goals for reducing the unacceptable and widening levels of inequality.”

Councils respond

Local councils have also weighed in on the argument, saying that they fully supported the committee’s call to avoid “today’s obese children becoming tomorrow’s obese adults” and lessen the cost of councils treating obese children.

Cllr Linda Thomas, vice chair of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: “Councils have long-warned that unless we take decisive action, both individually and through targeted initiatives, the potential consequences of obesity on people's health, such as diabetes and heart conditions, could be devastating and will bankrupt health and social care.

“We have called for fundamental reforms, such as a mandatory reduction of sugar in soft drinks, better sugar labelling on food and drink products, calorie counts on menus in chain restaurants, and for councils to be given powers to ban junk food advertising near schools.

“We believe that these measures, which would help to promote greater individual responsibility, could help to significantly reduce childhood obesity.”

Cllr Thomas also explained that councils were already doing everything they could to curb obesity at a local level, adding that more than half a billion of council funds had already been spent since authorities assumed responsibility for public health from the NHS three years ago.

The cuts to public health budgets by government will make this task harder,” she warned. "We believe the soft drinks levy should also be administered by councils, who are best placed to work with schools and communities to make best use of the money and reduce childhood obesity. 

“Councils will be able to ensure that the money is targeted at schools with the greatest need.  Councils can only do so much, which is why we have been campaigning hard for tough measures to be introduced by government.”



Jane Wright   27/03/2017 at 22:31

Parents should be made to take responsibility for the health of the children they have produced. I am weary of society (i.e. other tax-payers) being expected to compensate for the irresponsibility of others.

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