In a year in which government published a childhood obesity action plan and announced its intention to begin taxing sugary soft drinks to encourage reformulation and smaller portion sizes, we might have expected to close the year on an optimistic note for children's nutrition. However, the measures announced this year will not go anywhere near far enough to tackle the issues facing the malnourished middle.
Any public health measure must always consider the financial impact of action. But it is simply misleading to talk about possible financial impact of a measure without also talking about the economic burden we are already facing. The economic argument for action is huge - £27billion a year. That's why we can't afford not to introduce the soft drinks industry levy.
The health of children should be a priority for any Government as a moral duty, but also for the very practical reason that the savings made by cutting their care will be eclipsed by the multiplied costs of caring for them in adulthood. In the face of this crisis, the government as part of its wider budget reductions, has made its biggest cuts to local public health, which includes local health visitors, child obesity programmes and school nurses. This is not only wrong-headed, but a scandalous false economy.
This blog post is not a rant on obesity. Instead, I would like to take this opportunity to share some tips on what you as a parent can do your part to improve the situation. We all know breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Why then, does the report show that almost half (47%) of boys and over a third (36%) of girls aged 13 go skip breakfast?
India is a food nation; the one thing you don't deny people is food. My mum taught me, if someone comes to your house you always offer them something to eat. Traditional Indian food is full of vegetables, lentils, rice, wholemeal bread; recipes taught and passed down from generation to generation, but it's hardly a high fat diet. So how was I now back in India to make to make a programme for the BBC about the emerging crisis of obesity, or 'dia-besity' that's unfolding there?
Parents deserve a guarantee that school food will be high quality, and for those children and young people for whom their free school meal may be the only proper meal they get, we owe it to them to ensure that that meal is a good one. That's why Labour, along with Jamie Oliver and a number of other campaigners, has consistently called for our school food standards to apply to all schools once again.