Chief Medical Officer’s report on childhood obesity is published

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Food_Manufacture_Sponsors_2020_Business Leaders_781x285On 10 October 2019, the report Time to Solve Childhood Obesity, an independent report by the Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies, was published. The report emphasises the serious impact that obesity has on children’s health and the need for bold action in order to achieve Government’s ambition to halve childhood obesity by 2030. The report candidly admits that in England, Government is nowhere near achieving this goal.

The report highlights that:

  • children have a right to live in a healthy environment, children’s health, not companies’ profits, must be at the forefront of Government policy
  • being overweight or obese in childhood has profound impacts on the health and life chances of children
  • children living in the most deprived areas are disproportionately affected
  • the environment has slowly changed, making it harder for children to be healthy
  • action is needed across industry and the public sector
  • politicians have the opportunity to support children to be healthy
  • public want politicians to take decisive action to reverse the rise in obesity.

Professor Davies urges Government to take action to ensure that children: (i) have access to healthy and affordable food; (ii) are protected from marketing of unhealthy foods; and (iii) have the opportunity to run, bike and play safely. Furthermore the report sets out ten principles which need to be followed to achieve those actions. They are:

  • Rebalance the food and drinks sold to favour healthy options, through regulation
  • Allow children to grow up free from marketing, signals and incentives to consume unhealthy food and drinks
  • Introduce innovative policies that find the win-wins for children’s health and the private sector (for example the continuation of private sector sponsorship of sporting events but only allow advertising and sales of their healthy products on site)
  • Invest in and design the built environment to create the opportunities for children to be active and healthy
  • Take action to improve exercise and healthy weight in pregnancy, breastfeeding rates, and infant feeding
  • Ensure schools and nurseries play a central role, supported by Ofsted monitoring
  • Ensure our NHS and health sector workforce can deliver what our children and families need to prevent, manage and treat obesity, including having conversations about weight and tackling weight-related stigma
  • Make better use of data to guide practice
  • Protect and prioritise our children’s health and rights while making trade deals. Their health and a healthy environment must come above company profits
  • Develop the evidence base to inform practice and policy.

WM Comment

As can be seen from the list above, many of the guiding principles involve additional regulation on the food and drink industry and new restrictions, for example, on advertising. We will keep you updated with any developments that flow from the report.