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    Tuesday, 21 February 2017

    Tackling Childhood Obesity: The UK Strategy

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    It’s no wonder that the level of obesity in Britain is on the rise. High tea is stacked with treats of all sorts and people never miss the opportunity to wolf down cake for every occasion. In Britain, every six in ten adults is either overweight or obese according to The Telegraph, and obesity causes one in ten deaths. Scotland specifically has some of the highest obesity rates in the world, more so than the rest of Britain. In fact, two in every three adults in Scotland are overweight. The amount of fruit and veg eaten by Scottish peoples is subpar, only one fifth of the population eats enough of the good stuff. Substituted for wholesome nutrition are empty calories and sugary alternatives.  

    Last summer Public Health England (PHE) put together a childhood obesity strategy to combat rising obesity rates, suggesting restriction of sugary products by cutting down on marketing and promotion among other things. Originally a 50 page doozy, the childhood obesity strategy has been drastically slimmed down to 10-page childhood obesity plan. The draft strategy was scrapped for a softer approach which embraces voluntary action and self-regulation.

    Experts in the food and health industries say that the new plan, yet to be implemented, fails prematurely. Instead of forcing new regulations upon big companies, a surefire way to get results, “voluntary targets” have been introduced. BMA board of science chair Parveen Kumar commented on the voluntary industry targets which aim “to reduce the level of sugar in their products, the fact that these are voluntary and not backed up by regulation, renders them pointless.” He also addressed damning nutritional oversights, such as with saturated fat and salt content.  Driving his point home, Kumar stated that “poor diet is responsible for up to 70,000 deaths a year, and has a greater impact on the NHS budget than alcohol consumption, smoking or physical inactivity.”

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    The Department of Health (DoH), the organisation with final say for the plan, did away with much of PHE’s drafted suggestions in their slimmed down plan. What made it through? A sugar levy, a daily one-hour slot of physical activity for primary school children and a pledge to partake in clear food labeling.

    People are not taking well to the reformed measures which Sarah Wollaston, Tory chair of the House of Commons Health Select Committee, said are watered down: “In completely removing whole sections from the draft strategy, it is hugely disappointing that the obesity plan puts the interests of the advertising industry ahead of the interests of the children.”

    Royal Society for Public Health chief executive Shirely Cramer was similarly as critical of DoH’s new slant, drawing attention to the fact that “it does feel like several pages of the plan are missing; there is a glaring omission around any measures to tackle the aggressive marketing of junk food – on TV, online, and through sponsorship and price promotions.”

    “Such marketing and promotion as identified as a critical area for action by Public Health England in its sugar-reduction report last year. It is therefore extremely disappointing that these evidence-based recommendations have been dismissed.” 

    Jacqui Litvan

    Jacqui Litvan, wielding a bachelor's degree in English, strives to create a world of fantasy amidst the ever-changing landscape of military life. Attempting to become a writer, she fuels herself with coffee (working as a barista) and music (spending free time as a raver).
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