Chief Medical Officer’s report calls for childhood obesity to be prioritised

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An independent report by former Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Professor Dame Sally Davies calls for childhood obesity to be prioritised. 

In her report ‘Time to Solve Childhood Obesity’ Professor Dame Sally Davies calls for action across industry and the public sector to help the government reach its target of halving childhood obesity by 2030.

The report sets out a range of recommendations for the government, which are supported by 10 principles, and builds on the work the government has already done.

Professor Davies makes a number of recommendations to improve the environment and stem the tide of unhealthy food and drink, including:

  • Using the UK’s exit from the EU to review VAT rates on food and ensure all healthy foods have no VAT applied;
  • Phase out any marketing, advertising and sponsorship of unhealthy foods and drink at all major public venues;
  • Schools to ensure healthy meals are provided at a low price, including to children receiving free school meals;
  • Developing a system to apply a cap on the amount of calories per serving for all food and drink sold by the out of home sector;
  • Update frameworks so a business selling healthy food is recognised as different from a business selling unhealthy options.

The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) has welcomed the final report which emphasises that children have the right to be healthy, and the need for bold action if we are to achieve the government ambition of halving childhood obesity by 2030. It details how we have arrived at the current situation where children in the most deprived areas are disproportionately affected by overweight and obesity, and that the environment has changed, making it difficult for children from all backgrounds to have adequate access to healthy food and opportunities for physical activity.

The government have committed to halving childhood obesity by 2030, but their actions so far have been insufficient.

The RSPH report, Health on the Shelf, demonstrates how retailers can encourage healthier choices. another report by the RSPH, Routing Out Childhood Obesity, outlined a range of recommendations for transforming the street environment, particularly around schools, with the ambition that all children should have access to a healthy route home.

Shirley Cramer CBE, Chief Executive of RSPH, said: “This report comes at a crucial time in our approach to childhood obesity, as we must address the obesogenic environment that continues to dominate the places children live, play and go to school. It is not acceptable to expect children and parents to face an uphill battle to maintain a healthy weight. Everyone deserves to have access to healthy food and physical activity. We cannot place sole responsibility on the individual – the government and industry must seriously consider Professor Davies’ recommendations, or risk denying children and the next generation a long and healthy life.”

Diabetes UK has also responded to long awaited report whichcalls for childhood obesity to be prioritised. Chris Askew, Chief Executive at Diabetes UK, said, “this report is an urgent and ambitious call to action. The government have committed to halving childhood obesity by 2030, but their actions so far have been insufficient. Today’s report shows what must be done to tackle this issue now.

“It is a fact that being overweight or obese significantly increases your risk of type 2 diabetes. It is incredibly concerning that there are now nearly 7000 children and young adults with Type 2 diabetes when, historically, this is a condition that was only seen in older people.

Director of Policy at The King’s Fund Sally Warren also responded to the Dame Sally Davies’ report, “the government should make full use of all the levers at its disposal to tackle obesity. Some politicians may balk at the idea of the ‘nanny state’, but research suggests these types of intervention may enjoy stronger public support than they often assume. Around two thirds of adults support the sugar tax and restricting junk food advertising, so there is a real opportunity for the Government to build on Dame Sally’s report and turn these ideas into action.”

In July Cancer Research UK launched a campaign to highlight the link between obesity and cancer