The government’s decision to delay unveiling its Childhood Obesity Strategy until the summer has met with criticism from nursing and healthcare bodies.
The strategy, which was initally scheduled for release in December 2015, was previously delayed until early 2016. Now it is not expected to be published until this summer.
Fiona Smith, professional lead for children and young people’s nursing, at the Royal College of Nursing, said: ‘Many nurses will be quite alarmed by continuing delays in publishing a strategy which deals with [childhood obesity], and allows nurses to play their part in helping address the root causes of this epidemic.’
She says an effective strategy is needed to support the health service ‘which could be easily overwhelmed’ with the increasing levels of childhood obesity.
Sara Patience, a nutritionist and health visitor said the strategy is an immensely important development which should pave the way for better health outcomes for the country’s children. She said health visitors and school nurses are well placed to advise on ‘the prevention of obesity, identify children at risk of obesity and with correct training and adequate work force, to offer interventions.
‘Hopefully the strategy will practically support the health visiting and school nursing role in obesity prevention. However, this strategy must address the role of the food industry, and will hopefully include further restrictions on advertising, promotions of unhealthy foods and the introduction of a sugar tax,’ she adds.
Health experts and public figures have been campaigning for a sugar tax to be introduced but the government has still not committed to whether this will be included in the Obesity Strategy. A spokesperson said they are still considering all options.
Members of the Obesity Alliance, a grouping of charities and healthcare bodies, have expressed concern about the increased risks to children’s health caused by the delay of the strategy.
The Obesity Alliance is urging prime minister David Cameron to ‘show strong leadership’, and calls on the government to take ‘urgent steps to address the obesity crisis’.
A Department of Health spokesperson said: ‘We are now confirming that the childhood obesity strategy will be published in summer.
‘The strategy will be a key step forward in helping our children live healthier lives, but there is still work to be done to get it right.’