RCPCH comments on the Welsh Government’s Healthy Weight Healthy Wales delivery strategy  

On Tuesday 1 March the Welsh Government published its Healthy Weight Health Wales delivery plan for 2022-2024. 
Young girl eating a healthy meal

Commenting on the delivery plan, RCPCH Officer for Wales David Tuthill said:

To see the Welsh Government taking action on obesity with a clear delivery plan and funding packages set out for a range of key actions, is extremely useful. In particular, I’m glad to see that there will be a focus on children and early years; and on reducing inequalities in the Healthy Weight Healthy Wales delivery plan for 2022-2024. 

We don’t know for sure what the impact of the pandemic has been on childhood obesity in Wales but we have strong reasons to worry that things will have got worse from an already extremely troubling position. The latest data published by the Childhood Measurement Programme was from 2018/19 and showed a rise in childhood obesity over the previous six years with Welsh children more likely to be overweight or obese at reception age than children in Scotland or England. The commitment in this delivery plan to expand the Childhood Measurement Programme is crucial so that we have data about children and young people of other ages. Without that level of understanding, we can’t say whether or not government plans are working. 

From the Childhood Measurement Programme and our own State of Child Health report we know that poverty and inequality are key drivers of overweight and obesity, with disadvantaged areas like Merthyr having a rate of childhood obesity around twice that of more affluent areas like the Vale of Glamorgan. Unless we address the impact of poverty and inequality we’re unlikely to succeed. 

For these reasons, the focus on children and on inequalities is absolutely right. 

There’s much here I welcome: supporting health professionals to have positive conversations with people about healthy weight and healthy behaviours; developing safer walking routes to schools and introducing a 20mph default speed limit in built up areas; and of course funding for the All Wales Weight Management Pathway, especially services across the pathway for children and families. 

However, policy documents are only useful once they’re implemented and we now need to see delivery Healthy Weight Healthy Wales being prioritised by the Welsh Government. In particular, we need to see urgent progress on delivering the long-delayed legislative proposals on calorie labelling, price promotions and the food environment around schools and colleges to have the required population-wide impact.