Measures to halve childhood obesity announced

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has announced a range of new measures to cut childhood obesity in half by 2030.

Following on from the first chapter of the childhood obesity plan, the new proposals from the Department for Health and Social Care include introducing clear and consistent calorie labelling on menus in food outlets, such as restaurants, cafes and takeaways, to help parents make informed choices about the foods their children are eating, as well as preventing stores from displaying unhealthy food at checkouts - thereby contesting 'pester power' on last-minute, buy-one-get-one-free offers.

Whilst challenging the sale of high-energy, caffeine-laden drinks to children, Hunt is also urging the food and drinks industry to recognise the harm that adverts for foods high in fat, sugar and salt can cause - suggesting a consultation on new online advertising restrictions.

The measures also outline plans for every secondary school in the country to adopt a daily 'active mile' initiative, part-funded by Living Street's Walk to School project, as well as the launch of a three-year programme for the government to work alongside local authority partners to find and highlight areas of best practice and show what can be achieved within existing powers.

Hunt said: "Parents want what is best for their children, but keeping them healthy and active can be difficult. It is near impossible to shield children from exposure to unhealthy foods. Parents are asking for help – we know that over three-quarters of parents find offers for sugary sweets and snacks at checkouts annoying. It’s our job to give power to parents to make healthier choices, and to make their life easier in doing so. The cost of obesity – both on individual lives and our NHS – is too great to ignore. Today we are taking steps to ensure that by 2030, children from all backgrounds have the help they need for a healthier, more active start in life."

Izzi Seccombe, chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said of the measures: “This latest plan is desperately needed if we are to seriously tackle the child obesity crisis this country is experiencing. With the UK already the most obese nation in western Europe and more than 22,000 children classed as severely obese when they leave primary school, urgent action is needed to prevent today’s obese children becoming tomorrow’s obese adults.

“A specific programme to help to support councils develop their existing powers is good news. It is a bold ambition to halve childhood obesity by 2030 but we remain determined to work with government on introducing further measures to address this crisis that are not included in the plan, including giving councils powers to ban junk food advertising near schools and the need for specialised support for obese and seriously obese children. Councils need to be properly resourced if they are to carry out their public health responsibilities effectively and this needs to be balanced against their already over-stretched budgets, otherwise the ill health consequences of obesity in our younger generation risks causing NHS costs to snowball.”

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