Tackle obesity with better routes home from school

RSPH say banning junk food ads, building parks and transforming active travel are key to success. RCPCH's Dr Max Davie responds.

The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) has today called for a raft of measures aimed at overhauling the after-school street environment for children in the UK.

In its Routing Out Childhood Obesity report, they suggest:

  • Addressing the junk food offer around schools – including using a mixture of licensing and planning tools to ban unhealthy fast food outlets (FFOs) from within a five-minute walk of school gates (backed by 65% of the public); ending discounts targeted at school children (backed by 80%); ending app-based food delivery services to school gates (backed by 80%)
  • Building better places to go – including better quality parks with teen use in mind and physical signage outside schools directing kids to their nearest park
  • Transforming active travel – including a radical upgrade to cycling and walking infrastructure for young people and scrapping regulations on lighting for zebra crossings to allow many more ‘European-style’ crossings to be painted on our streets at low cost
  • Limiting the reach of junk food adverts – including banning the advertising of unhealthy food products across all council-owned advertising sites (backed by 80% of the public)

In support of the report, Dr Max Davie, Officer for Health Improvement for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, (RCPCH) said:

We welcome these measures aimed at addressing the unhealthy after-school street environment for children in the UK.  As children’s doctors who see the result of poor diet regularly, we know that tackling what kids eat between the school gates and their homes will lend support to reducing the child obesity cases that we see on the front line.

We also hope that the Government will push ahead with other measures from its Childhood Obesity Plan, including restrictions on junk food advertising before 9pm and improved front of pack labelling.

The UK needs to take action now to have healthy children who are likely to grow into healthy adults.