The All Party Parliamentary Group on A Fit and Healthy Childhood has launched its own prescription for the health and wellbeing of the nation ahead of the publication of the Government’s much-anticipated National Obesity Framework. The new report, also entitled The National Obesity Framework, is the fifth of a sequence published by the Group over the past 18 months and aims to draw together the thinking of academics, nutritionists and representatives from industry, local government and the voluntary sector on how to best combat the UK’s current obesity crisis.

Baroness Floella Benjamin OBE who co-Chairs the APPG, welcomed the report and said that its release, ahead of the Government’s own strategy was ‘pertinent and timely.’

‘If we are serious about addressing a situation whereby one third of our children, two thirds of adult men and just over half of adult women are either overweight or obese according to the Department of Health’s own statistics (Department of Health HSCIC. Statistics on Obesity, Physical Activity and Diet) there is not a moment to be lost,’ she said.

‘I am grateful for the expertise and commitment of the people and organisations who have contributed to this report and we hope that our findings will be helpful to the Government as Ministers finalise their own strategy. Above all, we are calling for an anti-obesity framework which is integrated, co-ordinated and properly holistic. Government Departments, the food and drink industry, local government, health and education professionals and media and advertising outlets must cease operating in isolation and join together to combat the detrimental effects of obesity that are destroying the lives of successive generations and costing the NHS over £5bn each year dealing with the health problems associated with excess body weight’. (Department of Health and Jane Ellison MP. Reducing obesity and improving diet, improving diet/October 2014).

The report (jointly sponsored by Mytime Active, Danone Nutricia, Quorn Ltd and Slimming World) contends that aiming anti-obesity policies at the adult population exclusively is to evade the problem. A health and wellbeing strategy should commence at the antenatal stage with health and education professionals specifically trained to offer support to parents and carers of young children in nutrition, food choices, physical activity and sleep balance from the all-important early years’ stage through to primary and secondary school days. The approach will be propelled by a cross-cutting and properly funded strategy, overseen by a Cabinet Minister with sufficient authority over all areas of government relevant to child wellbeing to ensure that the necessary changes in policy, budgets and guidance actually happen. The approach should be informed by an understanding of the key factors underlying child obesity including:

  • An excess intake of low nutrient, high energy food/drink, encouraged by an obesogenic environment
  • A lack of understanding of the role and importance of physical fitness
  • Increasingly sedentary behaviour
  • A massive reduction in the ability and opportunity for children to play freely and activel
  • Insufficient sleep, fruit, vegetable and fibre consumption
  • Early introduction of solid food
  • Maternal smoking during pregnancy Insufficient formal physical activity

and should promote collaborative working with all stakeholders from government to the food and drink industry, advertising and the media. The report also argues that there is no ‘silver bullet’ solution to the current crisis and that a range of measures operating simultaneously is best-placed to achieve a population that is ‘leaner, keener and properly fit for purpose.’

Helen Clark, lead author of the ‘The National Obesity Framework’ added:

‘Our report calls for a fresh approach because, as a nation, we cannot go on as before .It’s time to question all the old shibboleths and cast out the ones that are no longer delivering – such as relying solely on BMI to assess weight when the latest research indicates that it is a flawed measurement tool. We hope that our report will be useful to the Government as it aims to address an obesity crisis that is ruinous for the nation’s health and crippling to the exchequer. A new Cabinet Minister for Children is the lynchpin of a successful strategy and would prove that the Government means business. We hope that such a post will be the centrepiece of the Government’s own framework when published.’

For further information, contact Helen Clark: 07504460315

Download full report [click here]