The government has been called upon in a report released by the outgoing Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davis to adopt her recommended policy changes designed to directly tackle childhood obesity.
The report entitled "Time to Solve Childhood Obesity" asks politicians and policy makers to focus the lasers of their policy making to etch out a future for our children which includes creating and shaping our towns and communities so there are healthy transport options, access to affordable healthy food, and a barrier against often despicable junk food marketing.
Since 1990 obesity levels amongst our children has risen by a whopping 50%. Attributable not only to the emergence of entertainment technology which encourages sedentary lifestyles but also our diets and availability / uptake of physical activity spaces.
Childhood obesity is a real issue that will undoubtedly increase pressures on the NHS over the coming decades as the unhealthy children of today become unfit and obese adults who are statistically more likely to develop health concerns as a result of their weight. These can range from diabetes, heart conditions and cancers to the development of mental health problems as a result of inactivity and isolation.
In short, obesity is the enemy and in the absence of a silver bullet to tackle him, measures need to be taken to ensure we are all fit enough to escape him.
The report stresses a need to put our children’s health above the profits of corporations. This is particularly poignant in light of the recent controversial deal agreed this month by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and KP Snacks.
There are 53,000 fast food outlets in England and more than half of them are within 400 Meters of a primary school. The marketing towards children is aggressive and uses social media influencers to create unhealthy behaviour patterns by exposing children to junk food mascots and their online heroes indulging in energy products and unhealthy snacks.
The report asks politicians to take a leaf out of history and in the same way that policies of 1965 protected children from cigarette advertising on TV and the 1989 policies ensuring seat-belts are put on children in cars that modern day politicians should exercise their ability to shape the future landscape by using the law to change our children’s lives for the better.
Startling facts such as unhealthy food being three times cheaper are highlighted throughout the report which quite rightly explains we as a nation are not doing enough to ensure our populations future health. Suggestions on how VAT could be applied differently to healthy versus unhealthy foods illustrate how policy can encourage businesses to adopt healthy ranges over their more expensive unhealthy alternatives.
The road map to combating childhood obesity is a much needed and hopefully it doesn’t fall on deaf ears before it’s too late and the new crisis is a failing NHS due to a spike in obesity related disease and death.
The report main principles being recommended are as follows.
• Re-balance the food and drinks sold to favour healthy options, through regulation.
• Allow children to grow up free from marketing, signals and incentives to consume unhealthy food and drinks.
• Introduce innovative policies that find the win-wins for children’s health and the private sector: E.g. continue private sector sponsorship of major sporting events, facilities and stars, but only allow advertising and sales of their most healthy products on site.
• Invest in and design the built environment to create opportunities for children to be active and healthy.
• Take action to improve: exercise and healthy weight in pregnancy, breastfeeding rates, and infant feeding.
• Ensure schools and nurseries play a central role, supported by Ofsted monitoring. Teachers know that being overweight impacts on children’s lives and they need support to do the right things. Food, drink and physical activity standards should be set and adhered to in all schools and nurseries.
• Ensure our NHS and health sector workforce can deliver what our children and families need to prevent, manage and treat obesity, including having conversations about weight and tackling weight-related stigma.
• Make better use of data to guide practice: e.g. systematically link and share data on children’s weight to intervene early; share private sector data, such as supermarket sales data, with policymakers and researchers
• Protect and prioritise our children’s health and rights while making trade deals. Their health and a healthy environment must come above company profits.
• Develop the evidence base to inform practice and policy.
Those wishing to read the full report can do so here.
Standing Desks for Children's Health
Standing Desks are being implemented by Schools wishing to take responsibility for their pupils health and well being. A "try before you buy" trial of the Eiger Standing Desk is available for your classrooms. Just fill in a simple form and we'll get you started. Here's the form.
Schools can use pupil and student support premiums to fund the cost of desks and join hundreds of other education centres in the UK to send a message to their communities that they are proactively tackling in-school sedentary habits.
A Glasgow University Research team has uncovered a series of surreptitious food packaging designs suggesting that food which has been labelled as healthy and good for kids is in fact misleading.
Dr Davie explained that parents are being misled by "manipulative marketing campaigns" and "crafty messaging" and has called for more stringent rules on the messaging.
This follows recent news that the APPG on a Fit and Healthy Childhood demanded regulations be put in place by the government to ensure companies aren't proactively targeting children and tone done their sometimes cynical methods for doing so.
Examples of misleading packaging include foods being labelled as containing one of your five a day not living up to the claim. Meanwhile healthy fruit juices often exceeded the recommended daily allowance of 150ml of fruit juice.
Healthy children’s yoghurts were also found to contain unexpected sugars from added fruit purees.
One of the researchers said "It is important parents don't look at the claims in isolation but look at all the ingredients on the pack and judge the whole quality of the food."
More than half of the 80 fruit drinks analysed claimed that they contained no added sugar but more than half of these had substitutes in the form of puree and concentrated fruit juice which has sugar that is already broken down and can be absorbed quickly by the body meaning children become hungrier faster and the child suffers from possible tooth damage and decay.
Foods with barely any fruit or vegetable were touting they contained one of the five a day in a cynical attempt to mislead parents into believing they were making healthy choices for their children.
"It is clear that families are being influenced by surreptitious food packaging. We strongly support the researchers' call for stricter regulations on composition and labelling." Dr Davie, of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health
Unsurprisingly a rep from the food and drinks federation commented that many companies gave even more information on packaging than they were legally required to and that sugar is a naturally occurring substance in fruit and that much of the food is still classed as healthy under advertising rules.
It is believed she was unable to comment further, not wanting to be late for an appointment with a world renowned trident manufacturer.
If as she said, no rules are being broken then perhaps those last comments actually give weight to the call for stricter advertising rules being called for by multiple paediatricians, children’s health organisations, researchers and child interest groups.
The work is published in the journal the Archives of Disease in Childhood
Further reading: Arsenic and lead are in your kid’s fruit juice, report says.
According to a new Telegraph article by Professor Dame Sally Davies the Chief Medical Officer for England obesity related sickness is costing the NHS more than 6 billion a year. With the exponential rate at which the childhood obesity crisis is growing the stress on the NHS and the impact on our children's health is undeniable.
We recently reported that the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on a Fit and Healthy Childhood has called for stricter rules in place for junk food companies to tame their child focused marketing including the banning of friendly characters to advertise junk food and pushing back junk food advertising after a 9pm watershed. Well polling now indicates that 70% of people agree with the water shedding of junk food ads and the government has come out this week stating they will be clamping down.
We reported recently that McDonalds were being delivered to schools
"Adverts for foods that are high in fat, sugar and salt are more prolific than any other category of food promotion. In fact, only 1 per cent of adverts are for vegetables!" Professor Davies explains that actually being exposed to the adverts actively changes our children’s taste buds making the battle to glamorise vegetables we wrote about recently in the Vegetable Power campaign an even harder sell.
Public health experts also warn about the growing influence of social media stars and online advertising in manipulating our children into engaging in games produced by advertisers and of course eating unhealthily. Professor Dame Sally Davies says online advertising methods are a growing consideration for the government and new rules will be devised to reflect the government’s pledge to bring in policy to combat the junk food advertisers grasp on our children’s eating habits.
Standing Desks for kids help educate our children in the language of physical literacy. It's a known fact that active children become active adults and it is our duty of care to expose our kids to a culture of movement. Sitting all day in a chair to learn is counterproductive to this aim and we have helped over a hundred schools in the UK to integrate standing desks to combat the sedentary problem.
Your school can request a student standing desk trial by filling in the form here.
You may want to read:
The telegraph article.
Our article on rising childhood obesity.
The new veg power campaign.
How the government will combat the online problem
A new measure to help tackle the growing epidemic of childhood obesity has been implemented in London as of February 25th. The London transport network can now no longer carry advertising for food which is deemed to be overly fatty or high in sugar. The impact of this cannot be underestimated and should be rolled out nationwide according to Dr Stuart Flint, of Leeds Beckett University who contributed to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Obesity. He said;
“This policy is needed across the UK, not just in London. Local authorities should be considering this policy and the potential impact that it could on child and adult health nationally.”
The ban also extends to roundabouts, bus stops, taxis and trams and is designed to reduce the glamorisation of junk food to kids. London has one of the highest childhood obesity rates in Europe with almost 40% of 10-11 year old's being obese.
A spokesperson for the mayor said:
"The mayor is confident these changes will not only reduce children's exposure to junk food advertising, but also empower Londoners to make healthier food choices for themselves and their families."
This is however only shining a light on a more national problem. Obesity rates are sky rocketing as are rates of diabetes type 2 according to new figures from Diabetes UK over 7000 young people in the UK now have it. Physical literacy is also at an all-time low due to our children’s overuse of devices and increased screen time.
There was a study on the influence of social media influencers who actively showed themselves engaging in eating unhealthy products and this demonstrated that children who watched influencers who ate unhealthy products on air measured an increase in unhealthy food within their diets. The same test was done with healthy food and this had very little effect. From this we can extrapolate that kids don’t need much of a nudge to eat poorly and marketing has a significant effect on their eating habits and their perceptions of food.
It will be much more of an uphill battle to glamourize eating healthy but as a nation we have a responsibility to ensure our children’s attitudes towards fruit and veg stays on course. The study data is here.
80% of British kids don’t eat enough veg. There is however a very cool new ITV backed campaign called Veg Power which takes the fight to veg and positions them as the bad guys with the only way to defeat them being to eat them. Veg Power is supported by a host of familiar names in the fight against childhood obesity some of which include Jamie Oliver, ITV, Ella’s Kitchen, Oxford University, Iceland, Birdseye, Morrison’s and Tesco’s
Schools in the UK can do their part to combat childhood obesity. They can request sticker and poster packs here; give your location and number of KS2 pupils to ask for a support pack. Or alternatively download Veg Power posters charts and more to promote the "Eat Them To Defeat Them" message on the following link.
Iwantastandingdesk.com proactively support over a hundred UK schools to implement standing desks into their classrooms keeping movement and active lifestyles a priority in their learning spaces. They see the benefits of this not just in more alert and engaged students but also statistics prove that their children are out-performing inactive students by 16%. Movement is imperative to good mental and physical health. It combats obesity which is linked to cancer and early death.
UK schools can request student standing desk trials here by filling in this very short form.
With new advertising bans alongside campaigns to demonstrate the importance of healthy eating to kids set to a backdrop of a changing curriculum to include health messages it seems that our government is finally waking up to the dire issues arising in our young people and their lifestyles.
Disturbingly children's expected lifespans are now 5 years shorter than our own for the first time in history. We desperately need more initiatives to empower children to make the right choices for themselves and encourage them to get outside and get active so they grow up to become healthy well rounded adults in this ever changing tech led world we have created for them.
Veg Power, School Standing Desks and The Daily Mile are all ways in which schools can help to combat the growing childhood obesity problem. Some schools are proactive in supporting healthy messaging...Is your school contributing to the problem of sedentary behaviour and its negative impacts or providing solutions to tackle childhood obesity? There are certainly lots of ways to have a positive impact. Time to start getting stuck in.
The APPG on a Fit and Healthy Childhood has released a report on the 7th November which insists the government regulate the marketing of junk food to kids. Right now companies only have an opt-in system where they can volunteer to regulate their own marketing to children however only a few particularly virtuous companies have subscribed to the regime and the APPG on a Fit and Healthy Childhoods new report urges the government to implement a series of mandatory regulations to ensure that companies adopt less aggressive measures marketing their products to vulnerable young people.
Child obesity rates are soaring and the World Health Organisation has highlighted the adverse effect that cynical youth-focused marketing is having on the eating and drinking habits of our children. Whilst Public Health England prefers to take a suggestive approach such as making the Change4Life free Sugar Smart and Be Food Smart apps available these measures are criticised as being underwhelming in the battle against childhood obesity in the face of companies ruthless advertising of unhealthy choices.
Lead Author of the report, and chair of the working group Helen Clark said
‘If the Government really cares about the health and fitness of our children, this report should be welcomed. It’s time now to be proactive - simply ‘working with industry’ on marketing doesn’t work!"
Some of the proposed measures in the report include restoring the £600 Million funding cuts back to local councils public health funding and;
- The banning of friendly characters to advertise junk food.
- Pushing back junk food advertising after a 9pm watershed.
- Fully adopt the UNICEF-advocated ‘child rights’ approach.
Helen Clark went on to explain “Actions must be mandatory to benefit all the UK’s children and industry should be given no room to evade beneficial action, ‘get around it’ or, as too many companies are doing today, simply ignore it. It’s time for those who make policy to stand up and be counted in the children’s corner!’
Understanding our Language: The APPG is an acronym for All-Party Parliamentary Group.
Last week we reported that childhood obesity has been linked to 12 major cancers.