First Steps Nutrition, the country’s leading early years public health nutrition charity, has shared their response to the Government Food Strategy published on 13 June 2022. The response has been sent to Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, and Chris Whitty, the Chief Medical Officer for England and warns that, without improving diets in the early years, the rising national tide of obesity will not be reversed. The response also sets out the charity’s concerns that the Food Strategy does not make explicit, or address, the food and nutrition needs and vulnerabilities of infants and young children, stating,

“We are pleased to finally see a ‘Food Strategy’ for England released, to “start the conversation” about how best to deliver “healthier, more home-grown and affordable diets for all…”. However, this is not the comprehensive strategy we were hoping for. In particular, we believe it is misleading to state it is applicable to all, because the food and nutrition needs of babies (aged 0-12 months old) are ignored and those of young children (aged 1- 5) are barely considered…”

The early years of life set the trajectory for future health; excess weight gain in infancy affects later child weight and once established, obesity is harder to reverse. The Government recognises this and has set a target to reduce obesity prevalence by half by 2030 – but unless the nutritional needs of babies and young children are addressed, this target will not be achieved. Over 14% of children who started school in England in 2020 were already living with obesity, and among those from the most deprived households, the prevalence was 20.3%.

The charity also raises concerns that the Food Strategy pays disproportionate attention to individuals’ food choices in an environment in which families are not enabled to eat well – and this includes support to breastfeed.

To enable more children to maintain a healthy weight as they grow, First Steps Nutrition set out some key recommendations for the Government in their report published in May 2021: Enabling children to be a healthy weight. This contained 7 priority recommendations for babies and young children:

  1. Invest in leadership and strategy on maternal, infant and young child nutrition
  2. Collect data on infant and young child feeding practices and ensure better measurement and population surveillance of nutritional status in the early years
  3. Invest in universal breastfeeding support
  4. Strengthen and enforce regulations on the composition, labelling and marketing of formula and commercially-produced foods and drinks aimed at infants and young children
  5. Protect and expand universal health visiting services
  6. Review and refresh the Healthy Start scheme & increase the payment value
  7. Make food and drink standards in early years settings mandatory

The iHV is delighted to see that the recommendation to ‘Protect and expand universal health visiting services’ has been included. The response highlights the central role that health visitors play in enabling families and their babies and young children to eat well, stating:

“Statutory family support services need to be made fit for purpose if we are to stem the rising tide of obesity. Babies and children under two are the most vulnerable of all our children to the consequences of inadequate nutrition, and are also least likely to have engagement with public services. Health visitor numbers have been decimated since health visiting was transferred to local authority commissioning, and yet, alongside GPs, these specialist community public health nurses are often the only professionals who have contact with babies and young children and their families.”

The Healthy Child Programme sets out how health visitors can work with parents from preconception, through pregnancy and to their child starting school. Health visitors are therefore uniquely placed to support families with healthy weight and nutrition and identify children at risk of obesity. The evidence is clear that families are more likely to engage in this topic if they have a trusted relationship with a practitioner who is able to build on their strengths and support them to be in control of the things that matter to them and help them stay healthy– it takes skill to do this work well because obesity is a very sensitive topic. To achieve this, we need more health visitors, and a service built around relationships through continuity of care with an increased number of universal contacts for all families, and targeted support when needed.

The iHV welcomes this response from First Steps Nutrition and supports its recommendations. We would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to the team at First Steps Nutrition for continuing to advocate for better services and support for babies, young children and families, and also for their ongoing support of health visiting.


Thank you – and we look forward to continuing to work with you!



iHV is delighted to be a supporting partner in the PHE Consensus Statement: Supporting professionals to have healthier weight conversations.

iHV is 1 of 14 professional organisations for the public health workforce who have currently agreed to be listed as demonstrating commitment to taking action to prevent and reduce childhood obesity.

This consensus statement describes the intent to work together to maximise support for population behaviour change and includes a core set of principles which outline how professional organisations can support the public health workforce to help individuals and communities significantly reduce their risk of obesity in order to support the national ambition to halve childhood obesity rates by 2030.

The Department of Health and Social Care 12-week consultation asks if there should be more restrictions on how retailers promote food and drink that is high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS).

The government is proposing new rules to restrict retailers using promotions thought to cause excessive consumption of HFSS food and drink by children.

The consultation asks people to give their views on:

  1. restricting multibuy promotions of HFSS products, such as ‘buy one, get one free’
  2. restricting promotions of HFSS products at checkouts, end of aisles and store entrances

This consultation also seeks views on:

  • which businesses, products and types of promotions should be included in the restrictions
  • definitions for HFSS products, price promotions and locations in stores
  • how businesses can put this into practice and whether they will face any difficulties.

The consultation is part of chapter 2 of the government’s childhood obesity plan. It will seek views from the public and industry on the potential measures, alongside whether exemptions should be made for small businesses so they are not penalised by the rules.

iHV response to consultation

We are submitting a response from the iHV and would like to include the voices of health visitors, including our members, Champions and Fellows.

Collective professional response:

We are pulling together a collective professional response via the iHV. Please email your comments for the collective professional response to [email protected] by 22 March 2019 so that we can collate all comments, as the consultation closes at 11.59pm on Saturday 6 April 2019.

For Individual/organisational responses:

If you would like to respond individually or as an organisation, please go to the Open Consultation that can be found hereComments for the consultation to be received no later than 11.59pm on Saturday 6 April 2019

We look forward to receiving your responses – and, hopefully, together we can make the HV voice be heard.



In today’s Spring budget statement the Chancellor announced the rates of the soft drinks industry levy as 18p (for drinks with more than 5g sugar per 100ml) and 24p (for drinks with more than 8g sugar per 100ml). This is in line with previous announcements and good news. Not only are we one step closer to the levy, but the rates have not been watered down. Academics have calculated that the rates roughly represent a price increase of approximately 30% to sugary drinks.

The Obesity Health Alliance, which includes the Institute of Health Visiting, has responded to this news of the soft drinks levy as announced by the Chancellor.

“The Soft Drinks Industry Levy is a bold, positive and necessary move we believe will help reduce the amount of sugar our children consume.

“There is evidence from other countries that show similar taxes have helped to reduce the amount of sugary soft drinks consumed.

“We’ve already seen a number of companies in the UK announce plans to reduce sugar content in their products, so clearly the potential impact is huge. This is a significant step in the battle against obesity and the Government should be applauded for its commitment to seeing it through.”

Department Health newsletter – Childhood obesity: latest update including:

  • New funding to improve school facilities and encourage healthier lifestyles
  • Health Minister Nicola Blackwood outlines how the food industry can do more to reduce sugar in products
  • How schools, local authorities and charities are reducing childhood obesity
  • New catering guidance

PHE’s new Change4Life campaign shows that children are consuming half the daily recommended sugar intake before the morning school bell.

Children in England consume more than 11g of sugar at breakfast time alone, almost 3 sugar cubes. The recommended daily maximum is no more than 5 cubes of sugar for 4 to 6 year olds and no more than 6 cubes for 7 to 10 year olds per day. By the end of the day children have consumed more than 3 times these recommendations.

A survey conducted for PHE’s Change4Life campaign found that parents are unsure what makes up a healthy breakfast for their children. It found that of those parents whose child was consuming the equivalent of 3 or more sugar cubes in their breakfast, over 8 in 10 parents (84%) considered their child’s breakfast as healthy.

Some of the main sources of sugar at breakfast time include sugary cereals, drinks and spreads. Away from the breakfast table children are also consuming too much sugar, saturated fat and salt in items such as confectionery, biscuits, muffins, pastries and soft drinks These all contribute to an unhealthy diet.

Action on Sugar is today urging food manufacturers to get behind Public Health England’s voluntary reformulation programme in helping tackle the biggest public health crisis facing Britain today and save the NHS from bankruptcy.

Following the curtailed childhood obesity plan announced in August 2016, Action on Sugar has found that some companies put far less sugar in their best-selling products compared to others. For full details see attached survey document.

This means that the government’s reformulation target of a 20% reduction in sugar can be easily achieved well before 2020.  Action on Sugar is now calling on ALL food manufacturers to follow by example, and lead the world.

Further to demand a new date has been added to the Healthy Weight Healthy Nutrition Champions training schedule:

  • 3/4 November 2016 – London

With some training sessions already successfully delivered, we now have limited availability on this fantastic Champions training for England in London, Guildford and Ipswich – so don’t miss out, book your place now.

Building upon existing knowledge, we explore why good nutrition matters across the lifespan, the significance of supporting women to eat well during pregnancy, as well as how HVs can influence and promote optimal and responsive infant feeding practices. You will also have the opportunity to examine more complex issues of allergies, fussy feeding, safeguarding and nutrition, the relationship with activity levels and overweight and obesity.

Our Champions programme equips participants to take on leadership / special interest roles as well as cascading Healthy Weight Healthy Nutrition training updates to colleagues within their organisation. This is a cost-effective method of ensuring the workforce has access to up-to-date evidence-based knowledge and skills to support practice in this important public health subject area and additionally represents an excellent development opportunity for health visitors.

How fitting that last week saw the start of the national roll out of the iHV Healthy Weight Healthy Nutrition Champions training during the national childhood obesity week (4-10 July 2016) in Sheffield.

The new Healthy Weight Healthy Nutrition Champions from Sheffield

The new Healthy Weight Healthy Nutrition Champions from Sheffield

Congratulations to our new Healthy Weight Healthy Nutrition Champions who completed the training last week.  We look forward to hearing about your local roll out as you cascade and share your new knowledge with your colleagues.

The next Healthy Weight Healthy Nutrition Champions training will be at Birmingham City University this week and UCLAN on28/29 July.  There are more dates around the UK see Healthy Weight Healthy Nutrition training page for further details.

The HWHN Champions training is aimed at HVs who have an interest in the subject and who are willing to become HWHN Champions and cascade this training to other HVs within their organisations.

Sara Patience talking about fussy eating on the iHV Health Weight Healthy Nutrition Champions training in Sheffield

Sara Patience talking about fussy eating on the iHV Health Weight Healthy Nutrition Champions training in Sheffield

This flexible training, written by Dr Helen Crawley a dietician and registered public health nutritionist, is designed to complement the work of HENRY and and provides a comprehensive overview of current research evidence policy drivers. It builds on existing health visiting skills and will enable practitioners to consolidate their existing knowledge and competencies and share and learn alongside like minded colleagues.

Group work at Sheffield Healthy Weight Health Nutrition Champions training

Group work at Sheffield Healthy Weight Health Nutrition Champions training

The training is led by Sara Patience, an experienced health visitor, who is also a registered nutritionist and author. Maggie Fisher an iHV Fellow and professional development officer and trainer with the iHV is supporting Sara with this training.

Creative and innovative ideas shared

Creative and innovative ideas shared

More than 7.6 million new cases of disease linked to being overweight or obese could be diagnosed in the UK during the next 20 years, according to the Obesity Health Alliance (OHA) which includes the Institute of Health Visiting.

If the worrying trend in obesity continues, around 40 million adults in the UK could be overweight or obese by 2035, with 45 percent of adults in the lowest income bracket being obese.

In 2035 alone, around 440,000 new cases of disease could be caused by being overweight and obese in the UK.

To tackle the obesity epidemic, the Obesity Health Alliance is calling on the Government to introduce a strong childhood obesity strategy without delay. It must include restricting junk food advertising on TV before the 9pm watershed, as well as setting targets for industry to reduce the amount of sugar and fat in food.

By Mallinaltzin (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By Mallinaltzin (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons