News

Taskforce calls for powerful action to end childhood obesity

Wednesday 4 September 2019

  • London’s Child Obesity Taskforce sets out 10 ambitions to ensure a healthier London
  • Taskforce wants to halve the number of London’s primary school children who are overweight and reduce health inequality

London’s Child Obesity Taskforce has today set out its calls to action so that every child in the capital can grow up eating healthily, drinking plenty of water and being physically active.

The independent taskforce has set out 10 ambitions to improve opportunities and support for the capital’s children, with calls to action including making water more appealing and available, increasing the number of ‘water-only’ schools, allowing the Mayor to set the minimum wage for London to help end child poverty, restricting takeaway and fast-food menus when unaccompanied children are likely to visit, and Ofsted placing a stronger emphasis on healthy diet and activity.

London currently has one of the highest rates of childhood obesity in Europe, with the highest levels in the most deprived areas of the capital. The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, is committed to tackling these issues and created the taskforce of professionals to help drive change. He challenged them to develop ideas that would reduce childhood obesity and close this health inequality gap.

The taskforce has worked with lead partner Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity as well as Public Health England, The Association of Directors of Public Health London (ADPH London) and the Association of Directors of Children’s Services London (ADCS London) to create proposals to help halve the percentage of London’s primary school children who are overweight and reduce the gap between obesity rates in the richest and poorest areas of London by 2030.

‘Every Child A Healthy Weight – Ten Ambitions for London’ includes wide-ranging calls for action across all aspects of life in the capital, including the NHS, the government, London boroughs, the Mayor, schools and the food industry.

The ambitions are:

  • End child poverty – by increasing the number of London Living Wage accredited employers, allowing the Mayor to set the minimum wage for London, and redesigning the national ‘Healthy Start’ food vouchers programme
  • Support women to breastfeed for longer – by increasing the number of support groups for mothers and improving data on breastfeeding
  • Skill up early years professionals – by providing food training programmes for those who work with young children and specific qualifications for chefs and caterers
  • Use child measurement to better support parents – by creating guidance on improving the National Child Measurement Programme, which measures the height and weight of children in reception and year 6, and ensuring parents fully understand the results and the support available
  • Ensure all nurseries and schools are enabling health for life – by creating ‘ambassador’ nurseries and schools that lead the way with good practice and calling on Ofsted to place a stronger emphasis on the need for healthy diets and activity
  • Make free water available everywhere – by making water appealing to children and ensuring water is freely available in public spaces, and the introduction of ‘water-only’ schools – where just water would be allowed as drinks, in addition to plain reduced fat milk
  • Create more active, playful streets and public spaces – by closing more streets to traffic and improving them to focus on active travel, and making the impact on children’s health a key part of transport and regeneration funding decisions
  • Stop unhealthy marketing that influences what children eat – by the rest of the capital following TfL’s lead in taking unhealthy food out of the advertising spotlight and ensuring shops and supermarkets stop displaying unhealthy foods in children’s eyelines
  • Transform fast-food business – by restricting takeaway and fast-food menus when unaccompanied children are likely to visit and offering companies incentives to do this
  • Harness the power of investment to create good food – by creating a good food investment fund to encourage investors to work with food and drink companies to improve accessibility to healthier options.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “It’s shocking that our city has such high levels of child obesity and that our children’s health depends so much on who they are and where they live. We all have a role to play if we are to tackle this health crisis – so Londoners’ lives can be improved, reducing the burden on our over-stretched health and care service. That’s why I’ve already set out proposals cracking down on takeaways near schools and increasing the number of water fountains in the capital, overseen pioneering changes to the TfL advertising network, supported the Daily Mile and tackled inequalities through my Healthy Early Years London programme. London’s Child Obesity Taskforce’s report rightly calls for action right across the capital with everyone having a role to play in making the city healthier. I will carefully consider their report.”

Paul Lindley OBE, Chair of London’s Child Obesity Taskforce, said: “London is a vibrant city full of opportunity, yet many of our children face the risk of lifelong ill health by having an unhealthy weight that’s driven by inequality. We want to unleash a transformation in London, so that every child has every chance to grow up eating healthily, drinking plenty of water and being physically active. We will only do this if we put children at the centre of everything we do and understand that we must all take action. We must go bigger and bolder than ever before – and our call to action focuses on providing families with more financial resources, changing the environment of London to support healthier lives and to offering care and emotional support to families that are struggling. By helping our children reach a healthy weight, we will be investing in a healthier London of the future.”

Prof Corinna Hawkes, Vice Chair of London’s Child Obesity Taskforce, said: “Our ambitions are all about providing real solutions to real problems in real children’s lives. We want to see action throughout London so that everything and everybody surrounding children is helping them to be healthier. At the moment, there is too much that makes it hard for children to be healthy. Our calls to action aim to build on the great work already being done in London to deliver real change. Every time someone with a part to play in London’s health steps up to lead and deliver on any of our ambitions, we will move further and faster along the road to a healthier London.”

Kieron Boyle, Chief Executive of Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity, said: “If we add up all the children living in London, we have a population bigger than that of any other city in the UK. So it’s crucial that we do all we can to help London’s children lead healthy lives. This means creating environments that help all kids — regardless of how wealthy they are — eat well, play and develop. To get there, we each have a role: not just government, but also responsible businesses and even local communities. We see the Taskforce’s ambitions as an opportunity to turn London from one of the world’s worst cities for childhood obesity, to one of the best.”

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