RSPH welcomes the final report published today by the outgoing Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies. The report, Time to Solve Childhood Obesity, 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.

The report 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.

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.

There are many missed opportunities to support children to be a healthier weight, and the report calls on the government and industry to utilise these to make the environment healthier. For instance, our report, Health on the Shelf, demonstrated how retailers can encourage healthier choices. Our recent report, 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. RSPH has also previously called for further restrictions of unhealthy food advertising to children, and for mandatory out of home calorie labelling.

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.”