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Childhood Obesity Summit 2016

Childhood obesity is the most serious health challenge of the 21st century, profoundly impacting on the social and emotional well-being of our children and their future health, and creating an incredible and unsustainable burden on the NHS.

A third of UK children are overweight or obese by the age of 9 and despite a plethora of interventions, the statistics suggest there has been little real impact in reducing this. In turn, obesity – increasingly stemming from childhood – is fuelling the rise in diabetes, heart disease and some cancers, and crippling our health services, to the tune of £4 billion each year. Not only is this utterly unsustainable, but the health of future generations is at stake – current data suggests that, for the first time ever, children’s life expectancy will be shorter than current generations as a direct result of diseases and ill-health caused by obesity. Action has to be taken – urgently.

The long-awaited Childhood Obesity Strategy has finally been published and health campaigners are up in arms about the dilution of the Strategy – downgraded to a “Plan” – and the failure of Government to capitalise on the opportunity to make significant and impactful changes to our children’s health.

Public Health England’s key recommendations of strategies which would have the most impact on the childhood obesity epidemic – restricting advertising of unhealthy foods with a 9pm watershed, and regulating on price promotions of junk foods in retail and out of home are completely absent from the Strategy. Missing too, are any additional powers for Councils to control the level of junk food advertising or fast food outlets near schools. The Plan positions itself as “the start of the conversation, rather than the final word” but the lack of draconian measures, direction and level playing field all promised and hoped for has left campaigners reeling and begs the question – what went wrong and what next?

Why does the plan contain no action to tackle inequalities in childhood obesity – and what about treatment strategies to address the thousands of children who need help right now? How will PHE manage the Reformulation process – how will targets be agreed and set, is 20% realistic or achievable across the 9 categories and at what point would additional measures or sanctions be introduced? What plans are in place to engage the disengaged companies? What additional controls might Local Authorities introduce, without Government directives, to restrict the prevalence of junk food advertising and junk food outlets near schools? Why has price promotion been overlooked despite Retailers themselves calling for regulation?

Ultimately, what are the gaps that need to be filled and are there ways in which innovative and forward thinking stakeholders and communities with a commitment to protecting our children’s health might work together to make their own progress?

This vital and timely Summit is the only event to focus specifically on UK Childhood Obesity Policy and action, and will be invaluable in bringing together all stakeholders including Government, science, the food industry retailers food-to-go outlets, restaurants, education, healthcare, local authorities, catering and advertising standards to explore practical implementation and next steps, and to challenge the Plan and explore what further action is needed.

 

The full programme is available here