Editor's view - A lightweight strategy

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The childhood obesity plan has been served as a very lukewarm dish, says Liz Roberts


If the Childhood Obesity Plan for Action was a recipe, it might well be judged as bland and not very nutricious.

It has certainly been stewing for a very long time, only to be brought to the table in the middle of August when the new Prime Minister is up a Swiss mountain (no doubt meeting the physical activity guidelines) and most of the relevant ministers are also taking their holidays.

The previous week had also seen the childcare minister finally confirmed and the early years funding review and consultation released, so there's a lot to get to grips with when summer is over.

The childhood obesity plan points out that the NHS is spending more than £5bn a year on overweight and obesity-related ill-health, and that children from the poorest income groups are most affected, and yet the plan feels so lightweight overall.

Much of its language is about ‘encouraging’, ‘challenging’ and ‘supporting’ the food and drink industry, scientists, public health bodies, schools and children and families themselves to improve nutrition and physical activity levels. There is little of either the carrot or the stick in terms of mandatory changes.

No mention is made of junk food ads in popular TV programmes, and academies and free schools are not to be made subject to the School Food Standards.

On the plus side, the Early Years Foundation Stage Framework will be updated to make reference to the early years physical activity guidelines, including active play.

This is just the start of the conversation, the plan says, but it hints at the pressure for compromise in ‘respecting consumer choice, economic realities and, ultimately, our need to eat’. Our need to be healthy should have resulted in a tougher approach.

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