News ID: 273952
Published: 0853 GMT September 09, 2020

Child obesity action 'risks losing its way' in UK

Child obesity action 'risks losing its way' in UK

Government efforts to fight child obesity risk in the UK getting lost in reorganizations and delays, a report warns.

The country’s National Audit Office (NAO) said 20 years of targets and policies have had limited success and new initiatives may fall short too, BBC reported.

It points to a lack of urgency and coordination, while the child obesity problem worsens in parts of the UK.

Britain has one of the highest child obesity rates in Western Europe.

A fifth of 10- to 11-year-olds are obese, according to latest figures for England.

Obese children are much more likely to become obese adults, causing significant health risks.

Children from deprived areas or ethnic minorities are far more likely to be obese — and the problem is escalating.

But few interventions in the child obesity program specifically address this, the NAO report says.

Although the Department of Health and Social Care is responsible for setting and overseeing obesity policy in England, the cross-government nature of the child obesity program means many projects are outside of its control.

In 2016, the government published the first chapter of its plan aimed at slashing the child obesity rate over the next decade, through measures such as a sugar tax on fizzy drinks.

A second chapter was published in 2018, promising to reduce the gap in obesity between children from the most and least deprived areas by 2030.

In July 2020 — amid growing evidence of a link between obesity and an increased risk from coronavirus — the prime minister set out the next steps, which include:


● A ban unhealthy "buy one, get one free" deals

● Restrictions on junk-food advertising

● Calorie labelling on restaurant menus


But a ban on energy-drink sales to under-16s, mooted in 2018, has not gone ahead.

And other policies, including the sugar tax on fizzy drinks, have not been fully evaluated to see what impact they have actually had, the NAO says.

Without assessing the success or failure of past strategies, the government will struggle to prioritize actions or apply lessons to its new approach with confidence of success, the report warns.

Although there has been some progress in reducing sugar levels in popular foods, government will not meet its ambition to have industry reduce sugar by 20 percent in certain products by 2020, the report said.

There is also limited awareness and coordination across departments of wider factors and activities that may affect childhood obesity rates, such as sponsorship of sporting events by the food industry.

NAO head Gareth Davies said while the new strategy announced in July signaled "a greater intention" to tackle obesity, the government must now act with urgency.

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