Childhood Obesity Strategy: Chapter 2

The tumultuous wranglings of the British political system paired with recent high-profile events has had me on pause, but I’m hopeful that some form of normality will return soon. The big news is that Her Majesty’s Government has released chapter 2 of the Childhood Obesity Strategy. The Prime Minister opens with the sad truth:

“The health and well-being of our children critically determines their opportunities in life. Today, nothing threatens that more than childhood obesity.”

The last strategy paper was a huge disappointment. I wrote about it almost exactly two years ago here. It simply didn’t go far enough and it lacked true accountability.

Jamie Oliver has given his views of Chapter 2 and we’re all feeling a lot more optimistic this time:

“I feel it’s really important to credit this much more holistic, multi-pronged, clearer and more convincing childhood obesity strategy. It’s not perfect, but it is underpinned by a big bold target to halve childhood obesity by 2030, and I fully support this in every way. It’s a vast improvement from the first and fills me with a sense of hope.”

You can read the rest of his statement here.

So what does Chapter 2 say?

The headline is a new national ambition to halve childhood obesity rates by 2030. It’s a big statement that’s going to require the aligning of many many ducks in order to see fruition. It’s more than possible if we get our S.H.1.t together as a modern society.

It’s heartening to read that there’s recognition of how ambitious we really need to be given the current circumstances. How big is the problem? Well, the estimate from the Government is that obesity-related conditions are currently costing the NHS £6.1 billion each year…

The specific points are summarised here:

1. Sugar reduction – The sugar tax (Soft Drinks Industry Levy) has had a great impact so far, with many big companies reformulating their products. There’s a commitment to review additional products such as milk drinks if insufficient progress is made. There will also be consultation on the intention to introduce legislation ending the sale of energy drinks to children. #NotForChildren

2. Calorie reduction – Overall, children are consuming too many calories, so a calorie reduction programme has been introduced to challenge companies to hit a 20% reduction across the board. This has a significant focus on labelling.

3. Advertising and promotions – To reduce the impact of marketing products that are high in fat, sugar and salt, consultation will begin on the introduction of a 9pm watershed on junk food TV advertising. Work is also underway to review price promotions on unhealthy products. #AdEnough

4. Local areas – There are plans to develop a new programme with local authority partners to show what can be achieved within existing powers and understand “what works” in different communities.

5. Schools – A significant update to the School Food Standards to reduce sugar consumption, including detailed guidance to caterers and schools to prepare them for the changes. Additionally, consultation is underway to review the nutrition standards in the Government Buying Standards for Food and Catering Services.

The full document from the UK Government can be read here.

What’s next?

As you can imagine, there’s now going to be a (long) consultation processes to look into all the details – this can be read as a big risk to the strategy and its momentum, or an opportunity for industry to show their customers what they can do for the greater good.

I’m just hoping that we don’t have another backtrack due to changes at the top..

One thing is for certain: we’re not taking our foot off the pedal – we’ve never been so serious or determined, and it’s time to ramp up the campaigning to get us over the line. Anything is possible and it’s our responsibility to make a difference – not only for the wellbeing of our future generations, but also our precious NHS and ultimately the example we can set for the rest of mankind around the world.

Fighting Talk

I’m feeling a little despondent following the panel discussion on the UK Obesity Strategy this morning. Just when things were looking so promising with the Sugar Tax and David Cameron’s wholehearted support for the cause, we’re having to rally the troops yet again.

The long awaited Childhood Obesity Strategy delivered by Prime Minister Theresa May simply doesn’t hit the mark, and without a significant and meaningful plan of action, the outlook for the NHS is bleak, bordering on futile.

Lucky for us, we have a pretty formidable line-up in our corner… Olympian James Cracknell OBE, Dr Dawn Harper of Embarrassing Bodies fame, Justine Roberts of Mumsnet and Jamie Oliver gathered together at Fifteen to re-open the debate with Channel 4 Social Affairs Editor Jackie Long.

Jamie Oliver, Jackie Long, Dr Dawn Harper, Justine Roberts and James Cracknell

I’m not going to regurgitate all the details from the day for you, as proceedings were broadcast on Facebook Live and you can watch the entire event here.

The solution isn’t straight forward, it’s not as simple as just enforcing one particular change, we have to influence behaviours over time, and tackle the problem on a number of fronts.

So what happened exactly? Why did we end up with a watered-down, limp version of what could have been, in the words of Jamie Oliver, a real moment: a moment where we took charge of the future for our children, and corrected our course to protect the welfare of millions. I’m at a loss, I have theories, but I’m not one to speculate.

The conversation is not over yet – you can hear more about it all on Channel 4’s Dispatches at 8pm tonight (31st October 2016): The Secret Plan To Save Fat Britain.

Let’s not fail our future generations – please join us by contacting your local MP (http://www.tweetyourmp.com/) and #TellTheresa what you think about it.

chatting with jamie oliver

I’m going to end on a positive note as I’m confident that we can resolve this; the stakes are higher than you think, and the issues affect millions of us. There’s still hope.

Hey junk food, leave our kids alone.