Tackling Adult and Childhood Obesity
The BDA is joining other organisations in calling on the UK government to take firm action to tackle adult and childhood obesity.
Obesity is a public health crisis that threatens to damage the futures of millions of UK children and already affects the lives of many UK adults. Obesity as a whole is estimated to have cost the NHS £6.3 billion in 2015. In 2014/15, 19.1% of children aged 10-11 were obese and a further 14.2% were overweight, and by the time people reach adulthood, 25.6% of the population is obese, with a further 36.1% overweight. Once children become obese it is very difficult to treat and when they become adults they are more likely to be obese and suffer a higher risk of morbidity, disability, and premature mortality.
What the BDA is doing
The BDA is pushing for strong action on adult and childhood obesity and supported the introduction of levy for sugar-sweetened drinks across the UK. We expressed our disappointment at the watered down Childhood Obesity Plan for Action released in August 2016 by the UK Government. Key policies which could drive down obesity rates amongst children and young people were not included.
Despite this, in England we continue to work with Public Health England (PHE) and others to ensure that the plan has as much impact as possible in England. We have so far attended every one of PHE's reformulation and data meetings in support of their 20% targeted reduction in added sugar in a range of product categories (which will have a UK wide impact). We will also be engaging with PHE's next phase of work, which focuses on calorie reduction.
We are also engaging with the Department of Health, ministers and other politicians in Westminster and the rest of the UK to make the case for strengthening the plan for action in the future and doing more to tackle adult and childhood obesity. We continue to support the introduction of the Soft Drinks Industry Levy. This will not on its own solve the obesity crisis but it is a positive sign of intent and a step in the right direction.
Key dates for the ongoing childhood obesity work include:
- March 2018 - first detailed report on progress against voluntary sugar reduction targets
- April 2018 - Sugar Levy comes into effect
- 2018 - work on calorie reduction targets begins
In Scotland, the government published their consultation on an obesity and diet strategy in Autumn 2017, and the BDA has pushed for this to be as comprehensive as possible. This has included contributing to the Scottish Health and Sports Committee's inquiry into the matter. The BDA Scotland Board have produced a document setting out their initial thoughts on the consultation and what needs to be included. The Board is now working on a comprehensive response to the consultation document.
In Wales, the recent Public Health (Wales) Act committed the government to develop a 'National strategy on preventing and reducing obesity'. The BDA have with colleagues from the NHS Confederation to put forward proposals on what should be included in such a strategy. Read our headline asks document here.
We believe that dietitians have a central role to play in preventing and treating obesity and that this needs to be better recognised by the government and local commissioners. Unfortunately, in some areas cuts to public health funding are seeing dietitian-led service reduced. Where this is the case the BDA will seek to support members to oppose the changes, if they want our support.
What we need members to do to help
We want you to make the case for robust and comprehensive obesity policy, with dietitians at its heart. You could write to your local political representatives to outline your concerns about the government's limited approach, or to support those elements, such as the sugar tax, that we believe will be positive. For example, our friends at the Obesity Health Alliance have created a short letter you can send to your MP calling for changes to advertising and promotion of HFSS foods.
In Scotland and Wales, the devolved governments have committed to publishing diet and obesity strategies. When they do so, we would urge members to contact their local politicians in support of them and the role dietitians should play within them.
If local authorities are planning cuts or changes to public health interventions in your local area - in particular in relation to child weight management - we'd urge you to get in touch with us.
- Read our policy statement on the Childhood Obesity Plan for Action.
- Take a look at the BDA's initial response to the "disappointing" childhood obesity strategy for England.
- We attended each of the PHE category reformulation meetings throughout November 2016. Read our follow-up letter to PHE (member only).
- Check out the BDA's response to the Treasury's Sugar Tax consultation as well as our policy statement on taxing sugar-sweetened beverages.
- Read our response to NHS England's consultation on banning or taxing the sale of sugary drinks on NHS premises.
- Read the BDA and British Nutrition Foundation's joint response to the PHE's Report on reformulation guidelines
- We attended the most recent PHE meetings on drinks not covered by the sugar levy (see slides, member only) which includes fruit juices and milk-based drinks. Further meetings to set targets for these products will be held in October.
- The Department of Health has now launched a Reducing Childhood Obesity website, bringing together all their work on this policy.
- The soft drinks levy has now been included as part of the Finance Act 2017. The Government is currently consulting on the secondary legislation to implement the new levy.
- In the 2017 Spring Budget Chancellor Phillip Hammond confirmed further details of the levy - read this Treasury info sheet for more details.
- The Department of Education has confirmed that £415 million of the income from the Sugar Levy will be made available in 2018-19 for schools to encourage more healthy, active lifestyles in England. They also confirmed this funding will be made available even if the levy does not bring in the expected revenue.
Obesity Health Alliance:
- Maggie Throup MP led a Westminster Hall debate on advertising HFSS foods to children on January 16th 2018. This followed OHA's report A ‘Watershed’ Moment featuring new research on how much advertising for "junk food" takes place during family broadcasting.
- The Obesity Health Alliance, a coalition of charities and organisations committed to fighting childhood obesity and its causes, of which the BDA is a member, has useful content on its website, including a refreshed joint policy statement.
- Read the OHA's Cost of Obesity Briefing, developed as part of World Obesity Day.
- OHA have also offered their view on the Childhood Obesity Plan for Action a year on from its launch.
Public Health England:
- Public Health England has announced their calorie reduction programme, the next phase of the Childhood Obesity Plan of Action, which the BDA will be closely engaged with. Read our initial response here.
- Read PHE's joint strategy with the LGA, ADPH and Leeds Beckett on "Making obesity everybody's business".
- Read the latest feedback on proposed changes to fruit and milk based drinks not covered by the soft drinks levy (member only)
- Tale a look at the interim review of the sugar reduction and wider reformulation work, published in September 2017.
- Read PHE's published policy paper outlining the role they will play in implementing the Childhood Obesity Plan for Action.
- Check out the PHE's technical reformulation guidelines and baselines for the 20% reduction of sugar in nine categories of food.
- Take a look at PHE's All Our Health guidance which outlines some of the issues with adult obesity
- Read the PHE's data and analysis tools on obesity, including regional breakdowns.
- Obesity Action Scotland alongside Cancer Research Scotland have written an open letter calling for strong action on obesity, following Obesity and Cancer Week.
- The BDA Scotland Board have written a draft positions statement on what is needed for a Scottish Obesity and Diet strategy.
- Read the Scottish Health and Sports committee's letter to the Health Minister following their inquiry into obesity.
- Take a look at the BDA's written submission to that inquiry.
- Check out the work of Obesity Action Scotland.
- Read Joyce Thompson's contribution to the committee's meeting on December 6th, 2016, or watch online here.
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