Decisive action needed to tackle childhood obesity

In light of new figures, the Labour Party is urging the government to bring forward urgent measures to tackle childhood obesity.

The latest figures from NHS England highlight an ongoing and growing crisis, revealing that almost 700 children under the age of 16 were admitted to hospital because of obesity before the coronavirus pandemic – the second-highest number on record.

Child Health experts recently warned that the coronavirus lockdown could lead to a rise in obesity for a generation of kids with a lack of exercise potentially leading to weight gain for many children.

However, looking only at last year, the Labour analysis of the Fata shows that: there were over 11,000 hospital admissions (all ages) directly attributable to obesity – an increase of four per cent on the previous year; 876,000 hospital admissions where obesity was a factor – an increase of 23 per cent on the previous year; more than 7,000 people had bariatric surgery in 2018/19 – an increase of 66 per cent over a decade; and that only 47 per cent of children are currently meeting current physical activity guidelines.

It has been over two years since the government first published the 2nd Chapter of its obesity report, but Labour argues that ministers have failed to implement a single recommendation.

Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s Shadow Health and Social Care Secretary, is calling on the Prime Minister to stop backsliding on obesity and implement a radical obesity plan, that includes: protecting children from junk food marketing with restrictions on advertising; creating healthier retail environments, promoting healthy food choices in shops and supermarkets; mandatory and clearer calorie and nutrition labelling on all food and drinks; banning the sale of energy drinks to children; and reversing cuts to public health funding to roll out weight management programmes to support people to live healthier lives.

He said: “The childhood obesity crisis means we need decisive action from Boris Johnson, not more dither and delay. Ministers promised to tackle our growing obesity crisis but have not implemented a single measure in over two years since the second chapter of the childhood obesity report was published. Ministerial dither is putting children’s health at risk. Given the fears over the impact of lockdown on obesity levels, it’s urgent that children’s health is now given priority and the action needed is no longer ducked by ministers.”