Too much talk and not enough action over obesity plan

After all the build-up and delays, it was probably no surprise the government’s eagerly-awaited childhood obesity plan has been derided for being too timid.

The 13-page document, relatively light considering the severity of the posed threat, fails to mention tighter controls on advertising unhealthy food and drinks to children and families. Without this it is hard to see how the plan’s stated aim of reducing childhood obesity in England in the next ten years can realistically be met.

Too little action 

There is a warning in the document that we should not expect too much action when it says the plan ‘represents the start of a conversation, rather than the final word’. The problem is there has been too much talk and not enough action. 

The personal choice argument and evidence showing that families with limited incomes can’t afford some of the healthier foods are tough issues. As the document states obesity rates are highest for children from the most deprived areas and the problem is getting worse.

2018 sugar tax

Of course we have the planned sugar tax, due to be introduced in 2018, and the document discusses a programme, to be led by Public Health England, to reduce sugar in products by 20% including less obvious high sugar foods such as yoghurts and breakfast cereals.

There is emphasis on physical activity, healthy school meals, healthier options being available in the public sector, clearer food labelling and a recommitment to the Healthy Start voucher scheme.

School nurses, health visitors and others are urged to support families. In addition to the school checks on weight already in place, ‘healthy weight messaging’ at other contact points – such as during childhood immunisations – are being considered.

The Obesity Health Health Alliance called the obesity plan a ‘missed opportunity’.

Sadly, it is right.