Responding to the publication of the UK Government’s Child Obesity Plan, Professor Neena Modi, President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said:
“The UK had an opportunity to be a world leader in protecting infants, children and young people against obesity and a host of related crippling, life-long non-communicable diseases. I am extremely disappointed that the long-awaited strategy has been replaced by this weak ‘plan’ which provides no bold action, and instead relies on physical activity, personal responsibility, and voluntary product reformulation.
“Exercise is good but exercise alone will not curb obesity. It would take an hour of hard exercise to work off one chocolate chip muffin. And what is deeply saddening, because they can’t exercise personal responsibility is the failure of the state to protect infants and children. A baby born to an obese mother is already on a pathway to obesity, a toddler given a fizzy drink or a bag of crisps doesn’t know that its better to drink water, and eat an apple.
“A sugar levy, though welcome, is insufficient. This is why the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health has long called for a combination of measures that include the introduction and objective evaluation of tough policies such as taxes on unnecessary unhealthy foods, restrictions on fast food outlets near schools, banning advertising of junk foods, and breaking the vicious trans-generational cycle of overweight and obesity by helping young people go into their child bearing years healthy.
“Had measures such as these been put forward, the UK would have a strategy of which to be proud. Instead, infants and children have been let down, and because the overwhelming majority of obese children will become obese adults, Government is placing the health of the entire nation in grave jeopardy. This is short-termism at its worse.
“Obesity kills as surely as smoking; Government took on the tobacco industry effectively although it was a tough challenge, and can do it again now. The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health has a responsibility to advocate on behalf of infants, children and young people; for their sake we call on Government to revisit their ‘plan’ and turn it into the powerful, effective multi-sectoral strategy that is so necessary.”