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.

#AdEnough

Our children are bombarded with junk food advertising from every angle. Fact. On TV, public transport, at street level and online. It’s big business because it works, and it’s fuelling the childhood obesity crisis. We have to speak up and call for change, and Jamie Oliver is doing exactly that with the launch of the #AdEnough campaign.

The Food Revolution is rallying support from followers around the globe to make as much noise as possible in the hope that the government will take meaningful action to safeguard our future generations.

The more I’ve looked into it, the more frightening the bigger picture is. We’re talking about the marketing of food and drink products that are high in unhealthy fats, salt and sugar, to our impressionable younglings. The impact on their health is clear to see, and I’m not ok with that. I for one have #AdEnough

HMG’s Childhood Obesity Strategy aims to make a real difference through an array of interventions and recommendations, but junk food advertising is undermining all of the great work which is being done in schools, homes and communities. It’s time to make a stand. Let’s make one thing clear though, this campaign isn’t aimed at stopping big brands from marketing and advertising their products, it’s about safeguarding children so that they’re not being directly targeted with unhealthy products. It’s about controlling the time and place.

“If kids are constantly being targeted with cheap, easily accessible, unhealthy junk food, just think how hard it must be to make better, healthier choices. We have to make it easier for children to make good decisions.”

And what about the parents? Many people have asked “Isn’t it down to parents to look after their kids, not brands?” – the answer is a resounding yes, but as a parent, I know first hand how difficult it is to maintain the balance and avoid being the bad-guy, repeatedly trying to explain why it’s not a good idea to consume empty calories and unhealthy food, regardless of how tempting and enticing they may look in all their  technicolour falsity. Give us a break! We just want an easy life; there’s more than enough natural risks to worry about in life without the man-made ones conspiring against our precious offspring.

come on guys, give it a rest

Given that the ONLY way our children can avoid this onslaught of obesity-laced advertising it to literally cover their eyes, we’re calling on everyone to post selfies across Twitter, Facebook and Instagram doing just that. Get involved and use the #AdEnough hashtag to show your support for the safeguarding of our children.

We’re reaching out across the globe for this campaign as social media brings with it international influence and the opportunities for other countries to see what a difference the people can make, and follow suit.

I for one have #adenough

#adenough campaign

For further information please head over to Jamie Oliver’s page: https://www.jamieoliver.com/news-and-features/features/weve-adenough-of-junk-food-marketing/

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.

 

 

Must. Try. Harder.

Well, it’s finally out there. I know I should be jumping for joy to see it, but alas, although I haven’t even read it yet, the public reaction tells me that the UK Government’s Childhood Obesity Strategy doesn’t hit the mark.

govt_strategy

 

I’ve had an opportunity to pore over it now, and here’s what I think.

Reading the introduction inspires me to go out for a run; this is serious stuff that we can’t ignore. More needs to be done to get the facts into the public domain and reinforce the severity in the minds of those not inclined to read Government strategy papers.

There’s absolute sense in what they state about long-term, sustainable change only being achievable through the active engagement of schools, communities, families and individuals. This is the core objective for Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. It follows the basic principles of change, as we must raise awareness, create the desire, and help people to understand what they can do to make a difference.

The sugar tax is a positive step, but is it enough? If I were a food manufacturer, I don’t think I’d be too worried about any of this..

I see a lot of wishy-washy wording that leaves plenty of room for localised interpretation. I would have liked to have seen some more decisive moves rather than merely ‘encouraging’ change with a limp carrot.

The plans around sport for schoolchildren are great, but I’m concerned that the mindset will become “I do lots of physical activity, so I can get away with eating whatever I want”. The balance is paramount, and if those affected don’t have a clear understanding, then what hope do they have?

In conclusion, I’m glad that we have this, but we had a real opportunity for transformational change, and I can’t help but feel terribly disappointed that we didn’t grab it with both hands and really capitalise on it.

As stated, the launch of this plan represents the start of a conversation, rather than the final word. I for one will be making sure that I’m involved in that conversation, will you?