Obesity Health Alliance: Public urges government to tackle childhood obesity

Public opinion figures from the Obesity Health Alliance urges government to do more in tackling childhood obesity 

Almost six in 10 people in England think the government has a responsibility to reduce childhood obesity, according to figures released by the Obesity Health Alliance. A recent YouGov survey* shows strong UK public support for the government to act, with 71% of the public agreeing  junk food marketing makes it harder for children to eat healthily, and an even larger majority of 78%  agreeing that advertising unhealthy foods during family TV shows should be reduced.

The survey also found that more than 64% of people say the government should do more to reduce sugar in everyday foods, with 77%  saying they were concerned about the high levels of sugar in food. Research shows that marketing greatly influences the foods children choose to eat - making it hard for parents to do what’s best for their children.

Currently, more than one in five children in England are overweight or obese before starting primary school; this increases to one in three by the time they leave primary school.

Dealing with childhood obesity

To tackle the obesity crisis the Obesity Health Alliance, a coalition of over 30 leading health charities, campaign groups and royal medical colleges, is today urging the government to introduce mandatory targets for food manufacturers to make their products healthier, and also stop the marketing of junk food before the 9pm watershed to reduce exposure to children. The Alliance says these measures should be included in the long-awaited government’s Childhood Obesity Strategy, which must be published and implemented as soon as possible.

Obesity greatly increases the risk of serious ill health in adults including type 2 diabetes, cancer, coronary heart disease, stroke and musculoskeletal conditions. These conditions have a devastating impact on public health and NHS finances. Obesity can also present psychological problems. Evidence shows that obesity can lead to depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem – especially in teenagers.

Alison Cox, Cancer Research UK’s director of prevention and member the Obesity Health Alliance, said:

The obesity epidemic will get even worse if the Government fails to act. This survey proves that most people think that junk food advertising makes children more likely to want unhealthy food.

If we want to create a better future for our children the Government must introduce a 9pm watershed ban on TV junk food advertising.

Prof John Wass, from the Royal College of Physicians, said:

Alarmingly, some children are consuming as much as three times the maximum recommended amount of added sugar. Food and drink manufacturers must be prepared to reduce the amount of sugar and fat in their products. And the fairest way to make this happen is for the Government to set targets independent of the food and drink industry.

The Government has been holding off on the childhood obesity strategy for far too long. This is why the Obesity Health Alliance is urging the government to address the obesity problem on all fronts and must act now if it wants to make a difference.

Notes to editors

* All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 1,774 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 25th - 26th January 2016.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).  Funded by Cancer Research UK. 

For more information or to request the YouGov figures please contact Morgan Evans, Senior communications adviser at the RCP. 0203 075 1468.  

The Obesity Health Alliance (OHA) is a coalition of over 30 leading health charities, campaign groups and Royal Medical Colleges who have joined together to fight obesity. OHA has produced a joint statement that outlines ten measures that must be implemented to curb the rising tide of obesity and its devastating impact on the public’s health and the NHS’ finances. 

The membership of the OHA currently comprises: Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, Action on Sugar, Association for the Study of Obesity, British Association of Sport and Exercise Medicine , British Heart Foundation, British Liver Trust, British Medical Association, British Obesity and Metabolic Surgery Society, British Society of Gastroenterology, Cancer Research UK Children's Food Campaign, Diabetes UK, Faculty of Public Health, Faculty of Sport and Exercise Medicine, Health Equalities Group, Institute of Health Visiting, Jamie Oliver Food Foundation, National Obesity Forum, Men's Health Forum, Royal College of Anaesthetists, Royal College of General Practitioners , Royal College of Nursing , Royal College of Physicians, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, Royal College of Psychiatrists, Royal College of Surgeons of England, Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, Royal Society of Public Health, Society for Endocrinology, UK Health Forum, World Cancer Research Fund UK.