RSPH has welcomed the publication of a report on childhood obesity by the influential parliamentary Health and Social Care Committee. This report outlines key areas requiring urgent action to tackle the UK’s childhood obesity crisis, in anticipation of the publication of a refreshed version of the Government’s childhood obesity plan later this year.
With one third of UK children aged two to 15 currently overweight or obese, the committee’s report supports a number of recommendations already made by RSPH and Slimming World to tackle the obesogenic environment in their joint Child’s Obesity Strategy and Size Matters report, including:
- Restricting price promotions on high fat, sugar and salt (HFSS) food and drink – the Size Matters report demonstrated the particular impact upselling has on calorie intake and weight gain.
- Giving local authorities more powers to limit the proliferation of unhealthy fast food outlets and advertising near schools – the Child’s Obesity Strategy demonstrated just how easy it is for children to get takeaways delivered to their school.
- Making health a licensing objective for local authorities, as recommended in RSPH’s Health on the High Street report.
Other calls made by the committee include a ban on HFSS (high in fat, salt or sugar) food and drink advertising after the 9pm watershed, and a ban on brand generated characters or licensed TV and film characters being used to promote HFSS products.
Shirley Cramer CBE, Chief Executive of RSPH, said: “The UK is in the grip of an obesity epidemic and it is absolutely right that the Health and Social Care Committee have called on the government to prioritise stronger action to protect our children’s physical and mental health and wellbeing – both in childhood and for their future life as an adult – as well as the long-term sustainability of the NHS.
“The introduction of the Soft Drinks Industry Levy was a welcome step by the Government and it has been encouraging to see many leading manufacturers reformulate their products to help consumers reduce their sugar consumption in response. However, with children aged five from the poorest income groups still twice as likely to be obese as their most well-off counterparts, the Government must move to enact a wider package of measures to reshape the obesogenic environment as an urgent health inequalities issue.”
Jenny Caven, Head of External Affairs, Slimming World, added: “Slimming World welcomes calls by the Health and Social Care Select Committee for tougher restrictions on marketing foods that are high in fat and/or sugar to children and young people. When Slimming World worked together with the RSPH on our Size matters: the impact of upselling on weight gain last summer, we found that young people are most likely to be exposed to upselling by being offered larger or extra portions of less healthy foods and snacks at checkout.
“In our report we called for consumers to be more aware of additional calorie intake from upselling and for business rates relief for businesses that work to improve the public’s health, for example by promoting healthy choices over less healthy. We have also supported the British Dietetic Association’s (BDA) Chuck the Junk campaign to get sweets removed from checkouts. We must act now to take action and help families lead healthier lives or we risk a lost generation of children whose physical and mental health will be affected as they face a lifetime of struggling with being overweight or obese.”