Making a distinction between food outlets that provide healthy food and those that provide unhealthy food is one of the recommendations laid out in a childhood obesity report by England’s Chief Medical Officer (CMO).
The ‘Time to Solve Childhood Obesity’ report, published today, lays out 49 recommendations to consider which span regulatio, marketing, the environment that children grow up in and the role of schools and nurseries.
The report highlights the rising rates of overweight and obese children in England, as well as the increasing number of children developing type 2 diabetes. The number of obese and overweight children has doubled in the past 30 years with more than 700 young people living with type 2 diabetes.
England’s CMO, Dame Sally Davies states within the report: “Today’s children are drowning in a flood of unhealthy food and drink options, compounded by insufficient opportunities for being active.”
The report addresses a wide range of aspects linked to childhood obesity. Local authorities should be supported in creating more green spaces where children can be more active and the number of fast food outlets, particularly near schools, to be reduced.
It is acknowledged in the report that healthy foods are three times more expensive than unhealthy ones. Currently, this provides financial incentive to follow an unhealthy diet. Another problem has been increases in portion sizes of unhealthy food, including crisps and pizzas.
One recommendation which may raise eyebrows is a call to: “Prohibit eating and drinking on urban public transport, except fresh water, breastfeeding and for medical conditions.”
The intention is to help set boundaries to prevent unhealthy snacking, however, some may see such a move as a restriction on personal liberty.
The report highlights the issue that gradual changes in environment over time are presenting issues that can affect children’s health: “The unavoidable fact is that over time our environment has become very unhealthy without us realising. Our children are now suffering from painful, potentially life-limiting disease. Our politicians need to be bold and help everyone embrace healthier life choices.”
The government has previously set an ambitious goal to halve childhood obesity by 2030. The report states that England is “nowhere near” reaching that target.
Dame Davies states: “The Government has laid important foundations for change with two ‘chapters’ of a national childhood obesity plan, a prevention green paper, Advancing our health: prevention in the 2020s, and the NHS Long Term Plan.
“If implemented in full, these plans will significantly reduce levels of childhood obesity and improve our children’s health. This would be a major achievement, but the plans, alone, will not meet the 2030 ambition. To meet the ambition and children’s needs, we must go further and faster.”