Investing in giving children the best start for life not only improves their life chances, but also reduces the demands on public services. As highlighted by the #TurnOffTheTaps Campaign launched last week, it’s time for a different approach. The UK is investing billions in overstretched health and social care services, which are flooded with growing needs.  It’s time to turn off the taps. It’s time to invest in health promotion and prevention in the earliest years of life.

Vicky Gilroy, iHV Head of Projects and Evaluation, said:

“The iHV is delighted that the Obesity Health Alliance (OHA), in their newly launched “Turning the Tide: A 10-year Healthy Weight Strategy”, has recognised and promoted the important role that health visitors play, providing individualised family-centred support to all families to reduce the impact of obesity.”

The Turning the Tide: A 10-year Healthy Weight Strategy, launched on 28 September 2021, makes 30 recommendations covering food and drink marketing in the early years, along with treatment, support and the need to address stigma, as well as the infrastructure needed to ensure that policies are robustly implemented and evaluated. The Strategy has been developed with an expert working group of academics, clinicians and policy experts, along with other expert advisors and OHA members. It brings together a wide range of public health stakeholders calling for evidence-informed approaches to improving healthy weight.

Key headlines from the Early Years Chapter of the Strategy include:

  1. An increase in health visitor universal ‘contacts’ (home visits or clinic appointments) to a minimum of eight
    • – Providing greater opportunities for the provision of advice and support on infant feeding and the promotion of healthy eating, physical activity and healthy weight.
    • – Enabling the early identification of children at risk of unhealthy growth with enhanced, tailored follow-up where needed to improve outcomes.
  2. Practical face-to-face breastfeeding support should be available to all women, delivered by appropriately qualified midwives, midwife support workers, health visitors or breastfeeding specialists, and assisted by trained peer supporters.
  3. Comprehensive training should enable and equip professionals working with expectant parents and families to discuss healthy weight and healthy eating in an empathetic manner, ensuring that the advice they receive is based on the best current independent evidence.

It’s time to turn the tide and halt the rise in obesity with a long-term approach to healthy weight. We support the OHA’s new healthy weight strategy with 30 evidence-informed actions. #TurnTheTide 

Public services are flooded with increasing needs. It’s time to invest in health visiting to #TurnOffTheTaps. 

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.

The food and drink industry is being urged to reduce the amount of sugar in their products as new calculations from the Obesity Health Alliance show that 11 to 18 year old children are consuming, on average, the same amount of sugar as 20 chocolate chip biscuits a day.

Obesity Health Alliance - biscuit infographic

Obesity Health Alliance – biscuit infographic

The call comes as sugar is present in many of the food and drinks that children consume on a daily basis, making it difficult to consume less than the maximum daily recommendation for sugar. It also makes it hard for parents to know how much sugar their children are having.

The Obesity Health Alliance, a coalition of 39 leading health charities, medical royal colleges and campaign groups (including the Institute of Health Visiting), is urging the food and drink industry to comply with the Government’s reformulation programme to reduce the amount of sugar in food commonly eaten by children, by 20 per cent by 2020. Research has shown that reformulation programmes that reduce certain ingredients in products are likely to be one of the most effective ways to help people eat more healthily.

The figures, calculated from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey also show that on average all age groups are consuming more free sugars than the Government’s recommendation which is 30 grams of free sugars a day for over 11 year olds and adults (seven sugar cubes). The highest intake is in 11 to 18 year olds (73.2 g/day), followed by 19 to 64 year olds (59.9 g/day) and then 4 to 10 year olds (53.5/day). Free sugars are any sugars added to food or drinks, or found naturally in honey, syrups and unsweetened fruit juices.

Obesity Health Alliance - sugar infographic

Obesity Health Alliance – sugar infographic

Consuming too much sugar is one the key drivers to the population becoming overweight or obese. Obese children are around five times more likely to become obese adults making them more likely to develop serious health conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, cancer, heart and liver disease, dental issues and associated mental health problems. Currently more than one in five children are overweight or obese when they start school, rising to more than one in three by the time they leave primary school.

 

Stark new figures from the Obesity Health Alliance, released on World Obesity Day, show a looming significant weight gap between the poorest and wealthiest primary-school aged boys living in England. Three in five (60%) of the most deprived boys aged 5-11 are predicted to be overweight or obese by 2020, compared to about one in six (16%) of boys in the most affluent group [1].

The most deprived girls didn’t however show the same trend, and are projected to have similar obese and overweight prevalence rates to their more affluent counterparts with an average of 1 in 5 girls predicted to be obese or overweight by 2020.

Dr Cheryll Adams CBE, Executive Director iHV, said:

“The Institute of Health Visiting, a member of the Obesity Health Alliance, is concerned about the health outcomes and inequalities for young children.  World Obesity Day is an opportunity is an opportunity to shine a light on a hugely important public health issue. Health visitors with enough time resource can have a significant impact on the development of positive family eating habits.”

Eating or drinking too much sugar is a key reason for consuming extra calories and therefore a cause of obesity. Sugar currently makes up 13% of children’s daily calorie intake, while the official recommendation is no more than 5% [2]. This is why the Obesity Health Alliance fully supports the Government’s Soft Drinks Industry Levy, which is an important step to help make our children healthier. The alliance is also calling on food manufacturers to comply with the Government’s programme to reduce the sugar in food eaten often by children and wants to see loopholes closed to protect children from exposure to junk food marketing online and on TV.

 

The Obesity Health Alliance (OHA) has had a letter published in the Times today calling for the childhood obesity strategy to be published without further delay and stating our policy priorities.

They anticipate the strategy to be published in the next couple weeks and so now have a limited window of influence to ensure that their calls are heard.

Please share the letter and if you’re using twitter, please use hashtags #obesity #obesityhealthalliance to widen the reach.

As the Times content is behind a paywall, please use the link to the letter on the OHA website: http://obesityhealthalliance.org.uk/2016/07/08/letter-times-obesity-action-plea/

If you have a Times subscription you can see the letter here: http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/3a7c154c-4466-11e6-8b08-e4a8e44356ba

 

OHA logo2

The new new Obesity Health Alliance website has gone live today

They have also launched a Twitter account @OHA_updates – so please follow and use their Twitter handle in any relevant social media posts.

 

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 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Mallinaltzin (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The Obesity Health Alliance, a coalition of 30 national health charities, medical colleges and campaign groups including the Institute of Health Visiting, has today welcomed the announcement in the Budget of a tax on the soft drinks industry.

They said in a joint statement:

“This is a moment to celebrate.  We’ve been campaigning for a tax on sugar sweetened drinks, amongst other measures, to be part of the childhood obesity strategy so we’re delighted that the Chancellor has brought this measure forward. High sugar consumption is contributing to the obesity crisis, which has a high cost both to people’s health and the public purse.

“Almost two thirds of adults and a third of children in the UK are overweight or obese, which are potent risk factors for serious health conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, a range of cancers and stroke, all of which can have a complex relationship with mental health.

“We’re pleased that the Government has listened to the evidence from Public Health England and public support for a tax on sugar sweetened drinks to curb the rising tide of obesity.”

The Alliance has also called for further measures to deal with the obesity crisis, including restrictions on marketing junk food to children and reformulation of food to reduce levels of salt, fat and sugar.

ENDS

Notes to editors –

1      The Obesity Health Alliance (OHA) is a new coalition of 30 national organisations which have come together to represent the unified voice of the public health sector on issues relating to overweight and obesity in the UK. We seek to share expertise and to support government in tackling the complex issue of overweight and obesity.

2      The membership of the OHA currently comprises: Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, Action on Sugar, Association for the Study of Obesity, Association of Directors of Public Health, British Association of Sport and Exercise Medicine, British Heart Foundation, British Medical Association, British Obesity and Metabolic Surgery Society, British Society of Gastroenterology, Cancer Research UK, Children’s Food Campaign, Diabetes UK, Faculty of Public Health, Faculty of Sport and Exercise Medicine, Health Equalities Group, Institute for Health Visiting, Jamie Oliver Food Foundation, Men’s Health Forum, National Obesity Forum, Royal College of General Practitioners, Royal College of Nursing, Royal College of Anaesthetists, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, Royal College of Physicians, Royal College of Psychiatrists, Royal College of Surgeons, Royal Society for Public Health, Society for Endocrinology, UK Health Forum, and World Cancer Research Fund UK.

3      The OHA is the first coalition of its size to support the long term goal of tackling obesity across the life course, and we are growing. Our organisations are diverse and bring a wealth of expertise, spanning the medical, nursing, charity, and public health fields. United, we represent the views of hundreds of thousands of health professionals and public health experts across the UK.

4      The OHA has produced a joint position statement which outlines ten urgent population-level policy interventions for government, retailers and health professionals. We believe these measures, implemented in conjunction, will reduce rates of overweight and obesity and address the social inequality and cultural differences in overweight and obesity prevalence. This is accessible at: https://www.rcplondon.ac.uk/news/new-alliance-obesity-outlines-priorities-action

 

Action on Sugar’s letter to David Cameron telling  him that Sugar tax MUST be put back on the table was signed by 10 members of the Obesity Health Alliance (including Dr Cheryll Adams from the iHV) members.

The letter was published in the Independent, Guardian and Daily Mail on 22 January.