Ministers are 'nowhere near' halving childhood obesity by 2030, top Government health expert warns

Posted On: 
10th October 2019

Ministers are “nowhere near” reaching their target to halve child obesity by 2030, the Government’s top medical advisor has warned.

Obesity cost £60 billion - or 3% of the UK’s GDP in 2018.
Credit: 
PA

Professor Dame Sally Davies is urging for bolder action to tackle the rising levels of obesity, which she says cannot be fully achieved by the current national plan alone.

In her last report before stepping down as chief medical officer, she said the health of children was “in politicians’ hands” - and there is strong public support for further action.

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From direct medical costs and productivity impact obesity cost £60 billion - or 3% of the UK’s GDP - in 2018.

Professor Davies said many children who are overweight suffer from health issues including type 2 diabetes and depression, which affects their quality of life, education and life chances.

And she also warned kids living in deprived areas are disproportionately affected, with projections showing one in three from the most deprived areas will be obese by 2030.

Dame Sally said: “The unavoidable fact is that over time our environment has become very unhealthy without us realising.

"Our children are impacted as a result and are now suffering from painful, potentially life limiting diseases. I refuse to believe that any adult – parent or otherwise – could argue this is acceptable.”

“We need to rebalance our environment – our politicians need to be bold and help everyone embrace healthier life choices.

“No child should suffer from complications caused by an avoidable case of type 2 diabetes, yet this is our new normal. We can fix childhood obesity but we need the right level commitment to make the healthier choice the easy one.”

But Dame Sally, who is now UK Special Envoy on Antimicrobial Resistance, also praised the Government for actions such as the introduction of the Soft Drinks Industry Levy.

Boris Johnson had previously said he was “reluctant” to introduce a further sugar tax under his tenure due to it hitting those with low-incomes most, but the report says there has been no evidence the levy had negatively impacted such groups.

Speaking at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, Health Secretary Matt Hancock also signalled a split with the Prime Minister as he said the policy is “working”, and hinted the sin tax could be expanded to other sugary products.

Professor Davies said the Government “must not shy away from regulation” and called for the phasing out of marketing, advertising and sponsorship of unhealthy foods at all major public venues.

She also urged for a review of VAT rates on food post-Brexit, ensuring all healthy food has no VAT applied, and to ban eating and drinking on public transport to reduce children’s snacking.

Responding to the findings, Mr Hancock said: “Professor Dame Sally Davies has done more than anyone to promote the health of the nation over a decade as CMO. Her parting report is no different and we will study it closely and act on the evidence”