The independent taskforce wants to reduce child obesity and tackle health inequality in a city which currently has one of the highest rates of childhood obesity in Europe, with the highest levels in the most deprived areas.
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The taskforce, which includes June O’Sullivan, chief executive of the London Early Years Foundation (LEYF), was set up by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, to halve the percentage of London’s children who are overweight at the start of primary school and obese by the time they leave, and reduce the gap in childhood obesity rates between the richest and poorest areas in London by 2030.
The group 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 and the Association of Directors of Children’s Services London to create ‘Every Child A Healthy Weight – Ten Ambitions for London’, which includes 10 calls for action aimed at organisations across the capital, including the NHS, the Government, London boroughs, the Mayor, schools and the food industry.
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.’
Plans already introduced by the London Mayor include a crackdown on takeaways near schools and increasing the number of water fountains in the capital, banning junk food ads on public transport, supporting the Daily Mile and tackling inequalities through the Healthy Early Years London programme.
The 10 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
- Upskill 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 introducing ‘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 following Transport for London’s (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 so
- 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.
Paul Lindley, chair of London’s Child Obesity Taskforce, added, ‘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.’
Chef and campaigner Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, who is backing the plans, said, ‘When it comes to improving the health of our children, we must pull all the levers that we know can make a difference. It’s great to see that London’s Child Obesity Taskforce is galvanising so many key players to get involved. Through their calls to action we can all help children grow up eating healthily, drinking plenty of water and being physically active.’