The RCN has said that the suggestions for tackling childhood obesity from Dame Sally Davies ‘could help make future generations healthier and happier’.
The report is the last from outgoing Chief Medical Office Dame Sally Davies and outlines the scale of the childhood obesity issue and proposes measures to be taken by the NHS, by industry and corporations, and by the government to deal with this issue. It states that the proportion of children in the UK classified as obese at 10 years old has more than tripled since 1990. Recent data from the National Child Measurement Programme support this trend, showing that the prevalence of obesity in reception-aged schoolchildren has increased in the last two years.
Helen Donovan, the RCN Lead for Public Health, commented on the issue and the struggle faced by nurses in tackling it.
‘The truth is that the nurses who start the conversation with parents about childhood obesity have long advocated the idea that investing in preventative health keeps people out of hospital. However, these same nurses have been fighting an uphill battle, on the one hand against corporations who have resisted reform and used advertising to manipulate children’s diets, and on the other against sustained cuts to public health spending and a significant reduction in the numbers of school nurses and health visitors who perform vital early interventions with families and children.’
The solutions proposed by the report include extending the Soft Drinks Industry Levy, devising a system for capping the maximum calories per serving in food and drink, and phasing out advertising of less healthy food and drink products. The recommendations also cover actions to support the NHS, including ensuring adequate training and education in recognising and supporting children suffering from obesity, and building on the NHS Long Term Plan to improve and expand weight management services.
‘The unavoidable fact is that over time our environment has become very unhealthy without us realising,’ said Dame Sally Davies. ‘Our children are now suffering from painful, potentially life-limiting disease. Our politicians need to be bold and help everyone embrace healthier life choices’.
This report follows the release of the Atlas of Childhood Obesity by the World Obesity Federation earlier this year, which warned that increasing childhood obesity would overwhelm healthcare services if preventative measures weren't taken.
However, this statement has had mixed reviews in the public forum and, given Boris Johnson’s previous decisions to review the sugar levy and not to introduce further taxes in this area, it is unclear whether the recommendations in the report will actually be introduced into policy.