William Eichler 27 March 2017

Childhood obesity could ‘bankrupt health and social care’, councils say

MPs warn the Government is missing opportunities to tackle childhood obesity, as councils say weight-related illnesses could ‘bankrupt health and social care’.

A new report from the Health Committee has called on Whitehall to take ‘more robust action’ to tackle promotions on the sales of unhealthy food and drink.

Published today, the committee’s report said the Government should introduce more regulations to create ‘a level playing field’ for retailers who act responsibly on discounts and promotions.

It also said that while it welcomed the sugary drinks levy, Whitehall’s plan to fight obesity — announced last August — was ‘extremely’ disappointing.

‘We are extremely disappointed that the Government has rejected a number of our recommendations,’ said committee chair Dr Sarah Wollaston.

‘These omissions mean that the current plan misses important opportunities to tackle childhood obesity.’

The committee said manufacturers should pass on the cost of the levy to ensure that there is a price differential at the point of sale between high- and low- or no-sugar drinks. They argued this would help maximise the ‘nudge’ to healthier choices.

‘Vague statements about seeing how the current plan turns out are inadequate to the seriousness and urgency of this major public health challenge,’ Dr Wollaston continued.

‘The Government must set clear goals for reducing overall levels of childhood obesity as well as goals for reducing the unacceptable and widening levels of inequality.’

The Health Committee welcomed Whitehall’s adoption of their recommendation to use the proceeds from the soft drink levy to pay for measures, such as access to school sports, that could contribute to improving the health of children.

Cllr Linda Thomas, vice chair of the Local Government Association’s (LGA) Community Wellbeing Board, welcomed the report and warned of the impact obesity has on health care services.

‘Today's obese children will be tomorrow's obese adults,’ she said.

‘Councils have long-warned that unless we take decisive action, both individually and through targeted initiatives, the potential consequences of obesity on people's health, such as diabetes and heart conditions, could be devastating and will bankrupt health and social care.’

‘We have called for fundamental reforms, such as a mandatory reduction of sugar in soft drinks, better sugar labelling on food and drink products, calorie counts on menus in chain restaurants, and for councils to be given powers to ban junk food advertising near schools.

‘We believe that these measures, which would help to promote greater individual responsibility, could help to significantly reduce childhood obesity.’

Cllr Thomas warned that while local authorities were doing everything they could to fight obesity, cuts to public health services are making this increasingly difficult.

Since councils took over responsibility for public health three years ago, they have spent half a billion pounds dealing with obesity issues, she said.

For your free daily news bulletin
Highways jobs

Rights Of Way Officer

Cambridgeshire County Council
£27,741 - £29,577
We are looking for a candidate who has practical experience of working with Rights of Way and access issues and... Cambridgeshire
Recuriter: Cambridgeshire County Council

Casual Assistant Swimming Instructor

Chelmsford City Council
Grade 4 - £11.01 per hour
Riverside Leisure Centre is Chelmsford City Council’s flagship leisure facility, offering a variety of sporting activities where there is something... Chelmsford, Essex
Recuriter: Chelmsford City Council

Systems Support Analyst

The Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea Council
£26,544 - £30,618 per annum
We are committed to promoting equality and respecting diversity and welcome applications from all sections of the community. Kensington and Chelsea, London (Greater)
Recuriter: The Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea Council

Service Manager

The Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea Council
£59,111 - £67,900 per annum
Create a better quality of life for our most vulnerable children and young people. Kensington and Chelsea, London (Greater)
Recuriter: The Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea Council

Contracts and Commissioning Manager

The Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea Council
£44,370 - £50,964 per annum
An opportunity has arisen within the Adult Learning team that develops and oversees the contracting and commissioning function for this service.  Kensington and Chelsea, London (Greater)
Recuriter: The Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea Council

Public Property

Latest issue - Public Property News

This issue of Public Property examines how how flexible workspaces can lead the way in regeneration for local authorities, Why local authority intervention is key to successful urban regeneration schemes and if the Government’s challenge of embracing beauty is an opportunity for communities.

The March issue also takes a closer look at Blackburn with Darwen Council's first digital health hub to help people gain control over health and care services.

Register for your free digital issue