Childhood obesity: a plan for action
Childhood obesity: a plan for action was released by Public Health England in August 2016. It focused on action in England, but also contained proposals for the introduction of a UK-wide levy on soft drinks. The BMA and others criticised the lack of ambition in the plan, particularly the reliance on voluntary targets for reformulation and the lack of provisions to address advertising, marketing or promotion of unhealthy foods.
Childhood obesity: a plan for action, chapter 2 was published in June 2018. There were welcome commitments to address a wider range of issue areas than chapter 1, including commitments to:
- Legislate for mandatory calorie labelling for the out-of-home sector;
- Consult on introducing a 9pm watershed for HFSS advertising on television;
- Restrict promotion of unhealthy food either through retail offers or placement in stores;
- Strengthen the role of local authorities in establishing healthier food environments.
Early results of the voluntary sugar reduction programme for food showed disappointing results – an average of 2% against a 5% target – and the strategy suggested a willingness to explore regulatory measures if voluntary sugar and calorie reduction targets do not deliver the desired results. It also stated that the Treasury would consider extending the soft drinks industry levy, which was introduced in April 2018 and welcomed by the BMA, to include sugary milk-based drinks.
A Healthier Future – Scotland’s diet and healthy weight delivery plan
A Healthier Future sets out a raft of actions designed by the Scottish government to achieve 5 core outcomes:
- The best start for children;
- The food environment supporting healthier choices;
- Providing effective weight management services;
- A cross-sector focus on diet and obesity; and reducing diet-related inequalities.
These actions encompass a number of devolved and local authority powers, such as raising food standards in schools and public-sector settings, supporting low-income families facing food security, and exploring regulation to control the advertising of HFSS products near schools.
A Healthier Future also calls on the UK government to implement a number of proposals made in the childhood obesity plan, such as extending the soft-drinks industry levy to include milk-based drinks, taking stronger action if voluntary reformulation proves ineffective, making front-of-pack labelling mandatory and introducing a 9pm watershed on HFSS broadcast advertising alongside a greater exploration of the impact and available controls of online advertising.
National strategy on preventing and reducing obesity – Wales (forthcoming)
The Welsh government committed in the Public Health (Wales) Act 2017 to implement a national obesity strategy – thanks in part due to lobbying from the BMA. The Obesity Alliance Cymru (of which the BMA is a member) has called on the strategy to protect children, make healthy choices easier and create a healthy environment, with action backed by adequate training, support and leadership.
The strategy should include adequate provision for local authorities, ensure that professionals are trained to provide support to those who are obese and overweight and provide holistic healthcare services to those that need them. The strategy should also urge the UK government to implement a number of provisions, including strengthening traffic-light labelling and restricting exposure to HFSS advertising.
A Fitter Future for All – Northern Ireland
A Fitter Future for All is a broad, cross-departmental 10-year framework running from 2012-2022. It is designed to prevent and address overweight and obesity in Northern Ireland. By embedding this across a number of government departments, the framework seeks to ‘empower the people of Northern Ireland… by creating an environment that supports and promotes a physically active lifestyle and a healthy diet’.
Although there were some tentatively positive results after the first review period in 2015, there has been little legislative progress since early 2017.