86% of public say childhood obesity is a ‘serious problem’ as leading health campaigners warn faster progress is needed to protect children from health risks of obesity

One year on from the publication of the Government’s landmark childhood obesity plan: chapter 2, the Obesity Health Alliance (OHA) has issued a scorecard to assess the progress, with the majority of vital policies stalled at the amber lights.

OHA Score card June 2019

Childhood obesity continues to be a key priority for the public. ComRes polling data among 2,058 adults in Great Britain shows:

  • 69% agree the new Prime Minister should continue to prioritise reducing childhood obesity
  • 86% agree childhood obesity is a serious problem
  • 76% say they are supportive of government action to reduce levels of childhood obesity
  • 80% say they are worried about the impact of obesity on NHS resources

The Obesity Health Alliance (OHA), which is made up of over 40 leading health charities, medical royal colleges and campaign groups and includes the Institute of Health Visiting,  recognise the work that been done by the Government in the last year, despite a complex political environment. But they warn that faster progress is needed in order to have any chance of meeting the Government’s target of halving childhood obesity by 2030.

The Institute commented:

Health visitors are in an ideal position to promote healthy weight, healthy nutrition with all families with babies and pre-school children. However, the current variation in capacity and service models has led to many families not receiving this support. Without in investment in front-line provision such as health visiting, childhood obesity will continue to be a serious public health problem.

Lack of consistent advice on healthy weight and nutrition in the early years has been compounded by closure of child health clinics across England where parents and carers would previously have been offered support and guidance from their health visiting service. The iHV calls for urgent action to consider the impact of the current closures and cuts to front-line health visiting services.

The most recent trends in life expectancy in England  present a slowdown in the reduction of mortality rates for heart disease and stroke, which are strongly associated with being overweight and obesity. It is therefore a serious concern that there is a stall in the reduction of childhood obesity. Our children are our future and without investment in front-line public health services like health visiting, as part of a whole system approach to tackle childhood obesity, we will continue to see life expectancy fall for those in the most deprived parts of our society.

Part 2 of the government’s plan for action to significantly reduce childhood obesity by supporting healthier choices was published this week.

This publication outlines the actions the government will take towards its goal of halving childhood obesity and reducing the gap in obesity between children from the most and least deprived areas by 2030. Building on the first chapter of the childhood obesity plan, the new measures include proposals to counter ‘pester power’ by preventing stores from displaying unhealthy food at checkouts or including it in buy-one-get-one-free deals.

Dr Cheryll Adams CBE, Executive Director iHV, commented:

“The Institute of Health Visiting welcomes the tightening of the update plan for Childhood Obesity. It is crucial that the preventative measures outlined are actioned with speed to ensure that all children in the UK are able to thrive and develop to their full potential.

“Tackling the wider factors that impact on obesity is crucial and we applaud the move to target advertising. The need to work across all sectors who provide “food away from home” is crucial and proposals to work with schools are well placed, we trust that these actions will also include early years providers – both state and private nursery provision, as the early years are crucial in the development of healthy weight in the later years.

“Whilst it is not explicitly stated there is a need to ensure that the revised actions have a focus on the early years (0-5 years) as we know from research that the influence of early nutrition and eating patterns is directly correlated with obesity in later years. To support this it will be crucial to consider the early year’s health and social care work force in the development of training proposed in this update.”

The government is calling on industry to recognise the harm that adverts for foods high in fat, sugar and salt can cause. It will consult on introducing new TV and online advertising restrictions to prevent children from being targeted by these unhealthy products, and to incentivise companies to reduce the sugar and calories in the products they sell.

The second chapter of the plan also promotes a new national ambition for every primary school to adopt a daily ‘active mile’ initiative, such as the Daily Mile.

Provides information on the flu vaccination programme 2017 to 2018 for children, the vaccine and how to administer it.

This document on the flu vaccination and vaccination programme includes information on:

  • what flu is
  • the flu vaccine
  • dosage
  • administering the vaccine
  • advice on vaccinating children with an egg allergy
  • further resources

In the 2017/18 flu season, flu vaccine should be offered to all children who are aged two to eight years old (but not nine years or older) on 31 August 2017 and to all primary school-aged children in former primary school pilot areas. It should also be offered to children from six months of age in clinical risk groups.

The key changes to the childhood flu programme in the 2017/18 flu season are that:

  • Reception Year (children aged 4-5 years) will now be offered flu vaccination in their reception class, rather than through general practice
  • Children in School Year 4 (children aged 8-9 years) will be included in the programme this year as part of the phased roll-out of the children’s programme

The Government needs to take more robust action to tackle the impact of deep discounting and price promotions on the sales of unhealthy food and drink, says the Health Committee in its follow up report into childhood obesity.

The Government’s plan to tackle childhood obesity was published in August 2016. Although the Health Committee welcomes the measures the Government has announced on the sugary drinks levy, they are extremely disappointed that several key areas for action that could have made the strategy more effective have not been included.

The soft drinks industry levy

The Committee also calls on the Government to ensure that manufacturers pass on the cost of the levy to ensure that there is a price differential at the point of sale between high- and low- or no-sugar drinks.

The report welcomes the Government’s positive response to the Committee’s recommendation that the proceeds of the soft drinks industry levy should be directed towards measures to improve children’s health including through increasing access to school sports and to breakfast clubs.

PHE’s Obesity Knowledge and Intelligence team has updated their child obesity data slide set – updated January 2016

These PowerPoint slides, which contain the latest HSE and NCMP data, present key information on child obesity in clear, easy to understand charts and graphics.

The slides and accompanying notes can be downloaded and used freely with acknowledgement to Public Health England.