27 Feb, 2016

Childhood obesity strategy delayed further, government admits

The Guardian | Sarah Boseley Health editor | 26 February 2016

The childhood obesity strategy was expected in December, but delayed amid speculation that the campaign for a sugary drinks tax – supported by the restaurateur Jamie Oliver, medical charities and the House of Commons health select committee – had become embarrassingly popular for a government disinclined to interfere with the market by imposing new taxes.

The launch of the strategy was then said to have been scheduled for January, which slipped to February or even March. Now the department says publication will be in the summer.

Abstract | The delay in the strategy will cause great concern among health campaigners. Shirley Cramer, chief executive of the Royal Society for Public Health, said: “Childhood obesity is a time bomb on which the clock is ticking, set to wreck the future health of our children and the sustainability of our NHS. There can be no excuse for delay or prevarication when we know – and the government knows – what must be done, especially if those delays are for political reasons.”

Jane Landon, deputy chief executive of the UK Health Forum, said: “The government has pledged its firm commitment to tackling child obesity, but we simply cannot afford a delay in taking action. As the clock ticks, the prevalence of obesity continues to rise, adding to already unsustainable demands on health and social care services.”

Prof John Wass, the Royal College of Physicians’ special adviser on obesity, said: “The delay in publishing the strategy is extremely disappointing, and a hugely missed opportunity to save lives, improve patient care and save NHS funds.”

Prof Russell Viner, of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said: “With every day that passes, more children are at risk of developing serious conditions associated with obesity. These include type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and asthma. So yet another delay in the publication of the government’s childhood obesity strategy gives great cause for concern.”