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Action on Sugar

Childhood obesity: a plan for action


Action on Sugar respond to today's publication of the 'Childhood Obesity: A Plan for action' (HM Government).

For over a year health charities, including Action on Sugar, and Public Health England have communicated the range of evidenced-based actions [PDF 240KB] that must be implemented to prevent obesity and type 2 diabetes and the government have ignored it. As predicted, RT Hon Theresa May MP has failed the nation with the release of such a weak ‘Obesity Plan’ despite the fact the leaked draft of the report was publically slammed for being far too unambitious [PDF 55KB], last month. It is appalling that the plan was not only not strengthened, but significantly weakened. The majority of Public Health England’s evidenced-based actions to reduce sugar consumption and to tackle obesity have been scraped, including restrictions on the marketing and advertising of, and promotions on, products high in sugar, salt and saturated fat.

The voluntary reformulation target of 20% reduction in sugar, with no mention of fat, will not lead to the calorie reduction needed to make an impact. At best, it’s a ‘Responsibility Deal mark two’ and waiting until 2020 for unspecified ‘levers’ to be implemented if companies do not respond to the ‘challenge’ of reducing sugar in their products is a luxury we cannot afford.

Furthermore, diverting attention to the Rio Olympics by suggesting that the focus on school sports is an opportunity to create ‘future GB Olympians’, in response to the published Obesity Plan, shows a complete lack of understanding of the issue at hand. As important as exercise is for health, it is not a solution in tackling population health and childhood obesity. Instead, we need our new Health Minister to be insisting that evidence-based measures like banning the sponsorship of unhealthy food and drink brands at such large sporting events form a key part of the Plan.

The Plan concludes “We are confident that our approach will reduce childhood obesity while respecting consumer choice, economic realities and, ultimately, our need to eat”. The stark reality is that this Obesity Plan will not tackle the reality of economic challenges that the NHS are currently facing, due to consequences of an unhealthy diet. The government has shied away from proving that public health and child obesity is the priority and this is an unforgivable, missed opportunity to launch, what should have been, one of the UK’s most important public health programmes.

Action on Sugar is now calling on the new Prime Minister, Theresa May, to rescue the strategy and ensure that the Sugary Drinks Industry Levy consultation, launched today, results the implementation of an effective strategy.

For media coverage of Action on Sugar's response, click here.

Professor Graham MacGregor, Chairman of Action on Sugar and Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH), says:
"Today is a sad day for public health. After the farce of the Responsibility Deal where Andrew Lansley made the food industry responsible for policing themselves, it is sad to see that this is just another imitation of the same Responsibility Deal take two. It is an insulting response to the UK crisis in obesity type 2 diabetes both in children and adults. This will bankrupt the NHS unless something radical is done."

Jenny Rosborough, Campaign Manager and Registered Nutritionist of Action on Sugar says: “Theresa May launched her Prime Minister campaign by saying that she wanted to tackle health inequalities – obesity being a major factor in this. The UK should lead the world in tackling obesity and type 2 diabetes and this is an embarrassing and inexcusable waste of a fantastic opportunity to put the nation’s health first.”

Read the Obesity Health Alliance's response, here.



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