Routing Out Childhood Obesity

This report outlines 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.

Society is awash with unhealthy options and opportunities, and we know this affects how healthy and active our children can be – but at the same time we must recognise that this puts the solution in our hands. We have created these environments: it remains in our power to change them. 

During the small window of time that young people travel to and from school every day, the street environment around them has a disproportionate effect on their diet and lifestyle. Building healthy food environments in the school and home are crucial, but these efforts can to some extent be compromised by the obesogenic world they experience between the school gates and the front door. With nine children in every year 6 class overweight or obese, childhood obesity in the UK poses a serious, yet fixable, public health challenge.

Following the outcome of a mixed-method research project in partnership with, Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity (GSTC), RSPH are making a range of calls to transform the street environment, particularly around schools, with the shared ambition that all children should have access to a healthy route home. 

 

Four in five of the public

believe fast food takeaways should stop targeting school kids with unhealthy meal deals

Two thirds

back a ban

on new fast food takeaways near school gates

Two thirds agree

councils should not allow junk food ads on their billboards

What we're calling for

Backed up by widespread public support, this report identifies four key aspects of the street environment that should be disrupted to give children a healthier route home from school: 

1. Addressing the junk food offer around schools – including    

  • using a mixture of licensing and planning tools to ban unhealthy fast food outlets (FFOs) from within a 5-minute walk of school gates (backed by 65% of the public); 
  • ending discounts targeted at school children (backed by 80%); 
  • ending app-based food delivery services to school gates (backed by 80%).

2.  Building better places to go– including better quality parks with teen use in mind, and physical signage outside schools directing kids to their nearest park.

3. Transforming active travel – including a radical upgrade to cycling and walking infrastructure for young people, and scrapping burdensome regulations on lighting for zebra crossings, to allow many more ‘European-style’ crossings to be painted on our streets at low cost. 

4. Limiting the reach of junk food adverts – including banning the advertising of unhealthy food products across all council-owned advertising sites (backed by 80% of the public). 

See our calls in full:

  1. Addressing the junk food offer around schools
  2. Building better places to go
  3. Transforming active travel
  4. Limiting the reach of junk food adverts