Sustainable investment in general practice is needed to combat high levels of childhood obesity, said the BMA.
In their latest report Food for thought: promoting healthy diets among children and young people, the BMA outlines that unhealthy diet is the biggest contributor to rising levels of childhood obesity.
It stated that 'all healthcare professionals have a responsibility to provide advice and support to children/young people and their parents/carers on healthy dietary behaviour where possible and clinically appropriate.' This led the reports authors to suggest that there needs to be better investment in general practice to allow for long patient consultations so that there is more opportunity for dietary concerns to be raised.
The report also acknowledges the key role schools and school staff have in educating children about healthy diets and that it is important to 'adopt a whole school approach.'
Fiona Smith, the lead for children and young people's nursing at the RCN, said that there needs to be a greater investment into the school nursing workforce to support children to make healthier choices. 'There are already various programmes between schools and local communities, such as cooking programmes, which are there to educate both children and parents on the importance on health lifestyles, but these can become more common. School nurses can also work with teachers to deliver PSHE sessions on healthy eating. It is about changing the way people think about food.'
Professor Sheila Hollins, BMA board of science chair, said: 'Children's diets are easily influenced, so regulating the food provided in schools, and providing free fruit and vegetables in primary schools, is an important way to support healthier diets among children and young people. All academies and free schools must be subject to the same mandatory standards as state schools, as without them they are more likely to provide cheaper, poorer quality food.'
The report also called for a 20% tax on sugary drinks to subsidise the sale of fruit and vegetables.