Curbing childhood obesity: investment in school nurses and health visitors is key – RCN

Public health warning as chief medical officer calls for snacking ban on public transport

Public health warning as chief medical officer calls for snacking ban on public transport

Picture: iStock

The chief medical officer's call for a ban on eating on public transport to combat childhhood obesity has been welcomed by the RCN.

But the college's public health lead said nurses are struggling to meet the needs of families and children because of falling school nurse and health visitor numbers.

Helen Donovan, said nurses have long advocated the approach to childhood obesity outlined by England's outgoing chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies.

Investment in school nurses and health visitors

However, Ms Donovan said: ‘As well as the important and timely suggestions in the report there needs to be long-term investment to overcome widespread staffing shortages in these essential areas. 

‘If there isn’t, children will continue to fall through the gaps and their health will suffer.’

Professor Davies used her final report as chief medical officer to urge ministers to:

RCN public health lead Helen
Donovan Picture: Barney Newman

  • Tighten regulation of how food manufacturers market to children.
  • Widen the tax on sugary drinks to include sugar-laden milky drinks, such as milkshakes.
  • Consider a plain packaging requirement for certain foods, emulating measures in the tobacco industry.

Professor Davies' stance is at odds with prime minister Boris Johnson, who has made clear his concerns about what he calls ‘sin taxes’ and ‘a continuing creep of the nanny state’.

Obese children’s elevated risk of morbidity

    Professor Davies said 1.2 million children in England are clinically obese, so are at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, asthma, musculoskeletal pain and depression.

    She said weight-loss programmes and treatment are frequently undermined.

    ‘It’s like treating people for cholera and then sending them back into their homes where the water is still contaminated,’ she said.

    She told ministers to act boldly to achieve the government’s ambition of halving childhood obesity by 2030, urging them not to shy away from regulation.

    Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock said the government would study the report.

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