14/08/2014 16:51 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 10:12 BST

Ban Parents Driving Children To School, Says New Health Chief

Ban parents driving kids to school, says new health chief

In an ideal world, we would all skip to school, stopping to chat with the milkmen and postman along the way, whistling a merry tune as we wave our darling sons and daughters off a the school gate before we head off to the park to pick up littler and do our bit for the planet.

But the reality is many mums and dad simply don't have the time. Many parents - especially those whose children attend schools a few miles from home - struggle to get their kids out of bed, breakfasted, then dressed before packing them into the car and tearing off to drop them at school before tearing off to work.

But according to the new public health chief, school run parents should be vilified for contributing to childhood obesity.

Professor John Ashton said children should be made to walk a quarter of a mile each day to keep them fit and prevent obesity.

He told The Times: "We're used to this idea that our children are not going to be as well off as we have been. But I don't think anybody has really expressed yet that they may not be as healthy either."

He said the 'nanny state' should not stand in the way of strong government action to improve health, particularly for children.

Professor Ashton, who takes over as president of the Faculty of Public Health today, added that the next generation face economic challenges as well as dangers from a diet of junk food and lack of exercise.

The combination of factors could produce a crisis which is 'in danger of writing off a generation', he added.

He hailed a change in the traditional school run as a preventative measure against childhood obesity and unfit young people.

"One of the things we should be doing is really strictly prohibiting cars stopping outside school to drop kids off but having drop-off points, if at all, a few hundred yards away so at least the children get to walk a quarter of a mile each day from the dropping-off point ... it would make a difference," he told the newspaper.

He also said that cities must be restructured and re-engineered to tackle the problems with modern life that are driving rises in obesity and other public health failures.

He said that public health efforts must focus on town planning as much as on general health and argued that diet, exercise and stress must be united as symptoms of a deeper problem with modern lifestyles.

The new public health chief called for Britain to look back to the Victorian era to find a sense of ambition, to try to prevent diseases and lengthen life.