We note that, since setting out several key actions in our 2017 State of Child Health Report, there has been some progress in tackling childhood obesity; however, significant further action is still required.
The obesity epidemic represents one of our greatest threats to both CYP (children and young people) and the future of the nation. A continued failure to tackle the strong relationship between deprivation and obesity also poses a significant health, social and economic threat.
- Timely access to evidence-based weight management services are fundamental to early intervention and treatment of obesity in CYP.
- Stigma and perception of obesity as of ‘low’ clinical value mean it can be ‘ducked’ as an issue by clinicians. Similarly, this creates problems when professionals perceive they lack the skills to have these ‘difficult’ conversations or perceive that they may cause harm by raising the issue of obesity with CYP and families. This can be particularly challenging where there is intergenerational overweight and obesity.
- Research demonstrates that there is a clear link between the food and drink adverts children see and their food choices and how much they eat. Current rules to restrict exposure to HFSS adverts do not go far enough in protecting children when they watch TV the most (between 6pm and 9pm) as this viewing period does not typically feature children-specific programming.
- There is confusion about whether the tier system commonly used in adult obesity applies to CYP. While there are number of community services, there are very few specialist services for CYP obesity that manage and treat CYP with extreme or morbid obesity. Such services have only arisen due to interest and activism by individual professionals, and services exist in a commissioning vacuum.
- There is a lack of resources and skills at GP level in terms of monitoring children’s weights. This means, despite some progress with the ‘red books’ children’s weights and heights are still not being regularly monitored and tracked, and BMI’s are not being accurately or consistently measured.
- Government should ban the advertising of foods high in saturated fat, sugar and salt in all broadcast media before 9pm.
- Government should undertake an audit of local authority licensing and catering arrangements with the intention of developing formal recommendations on reducing the proximity of fast food outlets to schools, colleges, leisure centres and other places where children gather.
- Government should extend the National Child Measurement Programme to measure children after birth, before school and during adolescence.
- NHS England and professional bodies should ensure that all health care professionals make every contact count by empowering them to have the often difficult conversation with patients about their weight.
- Government should extend the mandatory school food standards to all free schools and academies, and to early years settings. Compliance with these standards should be monitored through Ofsted inspections.
We respond to a wide range of consultations to ensure that the College’s position, and ultimately children’s health, is represented. Members can get involved in current consultations by contacting the Health Policy team: firstname.lastname@example.org.