New research shows that school-based programmes won’t solve the crisis. Without tougher action on the food industry, it will cash in – while the rest of us pay
We are in a global health crisis, and it grows worse by the year. By 2030 almost half the world’s population will be overweight or obese if current trends continue, the World Health Organization has warned. There are already 124 million obese children: a more than tenfold increase in four decades. More than a million of these live in the UK, which has the worst obesity rates in western Europe. Four in five will grow up to be obese adults; and the leader of the UK’s paediatric body warns that this will cost them 10 to 20 years of healthy life.
This is a social problem, both in cause and consequence. The chief executive of NHS England, Simon Stevens, has warned that obesity could bankrupt the health service. Yet the government’s response has been as modest and inadequate as these figures are shocking. Medical experts describe its childhood obesity strategy as weak, embarrassing and even insulting. Though it inherited a tax on sugary drinks – which comes into force this year – from George Osborne, it rowed back from restrictions on price-cutting promotions and junk food marketing or advertising. Instead, the strategy relies heavily on measures such as school activity programmes.