THE BLOG

We Can't Ignore Obesity When The Going Gets Tough Politically

21/06/2017 13:28
Svetoslava Slavova via Getty Images

As we emerge from yet another election to face yet more political turmoil, with no Government majority, no clear plan for Brexit and the country seemingly more divided than ever, we could almost be forgiven for neglecting the top threat to the health of children in the UK today - their expanding waistlines.

Almost forgiven, but not quite. You see, as the health professionals who deal with the medical complications of preventable and life-limiting conditions caused by obesity every single day, we can't forget about it. And as the charities who represent families whose lives are devastated by life-changing illnesses where obesity is a factor, we can't forget about it either.

The public haven't forgotten about it. 83% say childhood obesity poses a major threat to the future health of children in the UK and 73% say rising levels of obesity is putting a strain on the NHS.

NHS spending on obesity related disease is over £5.1 billion and will continue to rise as overweight and obese children grow into overweight and obese adults. To protect the NHS in the future, we need to reduce obesity today.

While there is no easy solution to reducing obesity rates, at the Obesity Health Alliance, a coalition representing over 40 health organisations, we agree on three immediate priorities the Government should take.

1. Sugar tax
Firstly ensuring the soft drinks industry levy (also known as the 'sugar tax') is fully implemented and evaluated. This measure has real potential to significantly reduce children's sugar intake.

2. Make everyday food healthier
Secondly we need the food industry to reduce sugar, saturated fat and salt from everyday foods. While some promising steps have been taken here on sugar, this programme is ultimately voluntary and there need to be clear and meaningful sanctions for companies who don't comply.

3. Protect children from junk food adverts

Lastly the Government must close the loopholes that mean children can be bombarded with junk food adverts while watching TV and online. Advertising has a massive influence on children's food choices and we need to all work together to steer children towards healthier food choices.

We all want a strong economy where business can prosper. But by continuing to allow the food and advertising industries to profit from relentlessly producing and marketing unhealthy foods we are condemning our children to a lifetime of ill physical and mental health and crippling our NHS.

It's time to turn the tide
We are calling on the new Government to be the one that finally turns the tide of childhood obesity. We are certain that it can be done with bold and decisive action. Ultimately politics is about creating a better future for our children. But we need them to be healthy enough to enjoy it.

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