Government announces new measures to halve childhood obesity by 2030
Jeremy Hunt announces package of measures to halve childhood obesity by 2030
Plans include consulting on mandatory calorie labelling on menus and on banning the sale of energy drinks to children.
Primary schools will be encouraged to introduce an ‘active mile’ initiative, such as the Daily Mile, with additional funding to support cycling and walking to school.
New measures to halve the number of obese children by 2030 have been announced by Health and Social Care Secretary Jeremy Hunt.
Building upon the world-leading first chapter of the Childhood Obesity Plan, the new measures include proposals to mitigate ‘pester-power’ by preventing stores from displaying unhealthy food at checkouts or including it in buy-one-get-one-free deals.
They will consult on introducing clear, consistent calorie labelling on menus in restaurants, cafés and takeaways, so parents can make an informed choice about what their families are eating, and on banning the sale of harmful, caffeine laden energy drinks to children. A quarter of 6-9 year-olds consume these energy drinks, which have as much caffeine as a cup of coffee.
The Government is also calling on industry to recognise the harm that constant adverts for foods high in fat, sugar and salt can cause, and will consult on introducing new TV and online advertising restrictions to prevent children from being targeted by these unhealthy products, and to incentivise companies to reduce the sugar and calories in the products they sell.
This could include extending the current advertising watershed and considering limiting the number of unhealthy food adverts shown during programmes children watch to 9pm. There is evidence that popular family television programmes can be saturated with adverts for products high in sugar, fat and salt, and there is a clear link between these adverts and children eating sugary and fatty foods.
Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Health, said:
“Parents want what is best for their children, but keeping them healthy and active can be difficult.
“It is near impossible to shield children from exposure to unhealthy foods. Parents are asking for help – we know that over three quarters of parents find offers for sugary sweets and snacks at checkouts annoying. It’s our job to give power to parents to make healthier choices, and to make their life easier in doing so.
“The cost of obesity – both on individual lives and our NHS – is too great to ignore. Today we are taking steps to ensure that by 2030, children from all backgrounds have the help they need for a healthier, more active start in life.”
As announced by the Prime Minister this week, the NHS will receive increased funding of £20.5 billion a year in real terms by 2023-24 compared to today to support a new 10 year, long term plan.
A priority in the long-term plan is a renewed focus on prevention so people can live longer, healthier, happier lives and take greater responsibility for their own health and care. The measures announced today will play a key role in making this happen and are designed to make it easier for families to eat morehealthily.
The updated plan also promotes a new national ambition for every primary school to adopt a daily ‘active mile’ initiative, such as the Daily Mile. This is supported by £620,000 funding for Living Street’s Walk to School project, as well as £1 million to support the Department for Transport’s Bikeability cycling training programme, expected to fund an additional 25,000 training places.
Steve Brine, Public Health Minister said:
“One in three children are now overweight or obese by the time they leave primary school. Dangerous overconsumption, combined with reduced activity, is having a catastrophic effect on our children’s health, limiting their potential and putting them at risk of a shorter life.
“We all have a responsibility to act before we lose a generation of young people to this entirely avoidable epidemic. We can’t afford to waste time, which is why we’re committing to halve obesity in the next twelve years with bold new action.”
Professor Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer for England said:
“This is a strong, robust and bold chapter 2 which will help children live healthier lives and support parents across the country.
“This series of measures will undoubtedly help shift the balance towards a healthier environment.”
Duncan Selbie, Chief Executive at Public Health England (PHE), said:
“Reversing this epidemic is possible provided everyone pulls together and the bold steps announced today will help turn the tide. No other country in the world is tackling this in such a comprehensive way."
The plan acknowledges that childhood obesity is a complex issue and while parents are responsible for protecting children from obesity, there is a role that Government can and should play.
The latest figures show that one in three children are now overweight or obese by the age of 11, with children from deprived areas more than twice as likely to be overweight, and being obese or overweight can lead to illnesses such as Type 2 Diabetes and liver disease.
To tackle this, Government is also committing to setting up a three-year trailblazer programme with local authority partners to help close the deprivation gap, looking at what can be achieved within existing powers and better understand what could be fuelling obesity in specific communities.
Minister for Children and Families Nadhim Zahawi said:
“We want every child to be happy and healthy throughout their education and beyond. But the reality is that by the time they leave primary school one in three children will be overweight.
“Parents and teachers are already doing great things to encourage children to be active – today’s announcement is about giving them extra support to build on this. By inspiring every child to walk or run a mile every day, or to take part in a sports club, we will not only improve their health but will help them to make healthier choices throughout their lives.”
The plan follows a report from Public Health England last month which showed industry has made an encouraging start towards reducing the amount of sugar in foods regularly consumed by children.
However, the Government has been explicit that they will continue to monitor industry progress on reformulation until 2020 and have not ruled out further fiscal or mandatory action if needed. New plans include a commitment to extend the Soft Drinks Industry Levy to milk-based drinks if sufficient sugar reduction is not seen.
Sir Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, said: “We congratulate the Government on putting forward this bold plan, demonstrating its commitment to address one of the most significant health challenges of our time. Once implemented following the consultation, the proposed restrictions on junk food advertising will make an enormous impact on childhood obesity rates.
“More than 60 cancers are diagnosed daily in the UK due to excess weight, and our research has shown that young people are more than twice as likely to be obese if they remember seeing a junk food advert every day. Children who carry too much weight are five times more likely to be obese adults, putting them at risk of many diseases, including several types of cancer.
"The Government now needs to be steadfast in taking forward these measures with urgency and determination."
Professor Russell Viner, President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health said:
“Obesity is one of the greatest epidemics facing our children today. Bold action is required to tackle this public health crisis, and we’re pleased to see a clear commitment from Government to halve childhood obesity rates by 2030. The measures announced in this plan will help all families to make healthy choices and make a real difference in the lives of children and young people. We look forward to working closely with Government in delivering this promising plan”.
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