activematters | opinion | Obesity strategy and beyond!
activematters | Successive governments have had an appalling track record (and getting worse by the day) by pandering to vested interests of the food & drinks industry (salt, sugar, labeling, marketing to children), dating back to the time when major health charities walked away from Andrew Lansley’s “responsibility” partnerships, because of his refusal to overrule the industry on anything much, or even to impose any serious rules on the minimal obligation to inform customers clearly about the nutrition in their food. The fizzy drink tax is another item of this long list of failures. In this light, the delay in the obesity strategy looks less like a necessary pause to give the government time to think, than a crude invitation for the industry to lobby again.
Or as we see it…Change4Life masquerading as a ‘Public Health’ campaign funded by the industry – hell bent on slowing down sectorial intervention on any level! We also know that Physical activity has been made virtually invisible in the obesity strategy!
Abstracts| If the government were earnestly grappling with such complexities, then the latest delay in the childhood obesity strategy might be forgivable. With diabetes already consuming 10% of NHS resources and one child in every four too heavy, the need to do something is urgent and plain. But it might nonetheless be worth taking the time required to get that something right. Sadly, there is absolutely no sign that this is what is going on.
The latest slip is to the “summer”, whenever Whitehall decides that is. But one of the very few certainties in this field is that parents and children alike will have to be gripped by, and engage actively with, what the strategy says, if it is to do any good at all. Choosing a moment when mouths are full of ice creams and more noses are in airport novels than newspapers is not an encouraging start.
Worse, the prime minister is reportedly disinclined to pursue one of the very few measures whose efficacy is a “known known”. Glugging gallons of sugary soda helped make America fat and sugary drinks – with which it is easy to swallow a meal’s worth of calories without taking a bite – are every bit as unhealthy on the British side of the Atlantic. That is why the NHS England chief, Simon Stevens, recently told the Guardian of his plans for a levy on their sale on hospital estates, a welcome symbolic gesture designed to spur ministers to follow with a nationwide tax. But the prime minister would seem to be leaning against it – and seemingly for no better reason than an ideological allergy to taxation.
Many popular foods still contain high levels of salt, with tinned tomato soup, cheddar cheese, chilled ready meals and cornflakes among the worst offenders, according to research by a health campaign group.
Consensus Action on Salt and Health (Cash) said huge progress made prior to 2010 under a national salt-reduction programme overseen by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) had been sacrificed under a voluntary system in which retailers and manufacturers police themselves. Under the so-called responsibility deal, a complex set of targets are in place to be met by December 2017.