Childhood obesity strategy – worth the wait or not 

In case you hadn’t yet seen it…..


No surprises, and not worth the wait in my view.

Click to access Childhood_obesity_2016__2__acc.pdf



To save you the trauma…. (althought its ‘slimline’ (sic) obesity strategy at 13p) here are a few select quotes



Overarching philosophy

“Long-term, sustainable change will only be achieved through the active engagement of schools, communities, families and individuals.”
(Yea I get that and agree but……… and industry – don’t have a strong track record of voluntarily reformulating what they produce and sell us, ultimately mars bars are more profitable than carrots etc ???)





“This is a levy on producers and importers, and not on consumers, and is designed to encourage producers to reduce the amount of sugar in their products and to move consumers towards healthier alternatives”
(oh….. so industry will lobby its way out of this one)


Of note the consultation on the Levy is also published – please respond. You can be sure Tate& Lyle and Coca Cola will definately be doing so with some force


Reducing sugar

“All sectors of the food and drinks industry will be challenged to reduce overall sugar across a range of products that contribute to children’s sugar intakes by at least 20% by 2020, including a 5% reduction in year one

The programme will initially focus on the nine categories that make the largest contributions to children’s sugar intakes: breakfast cereals, yoghurts, biscuits, cakes, confectionery, morning goods (e.g. pastries), puddings, ice cream and sweet spreads

Sugar reductions should be accompanied by reductions in calories and should not be compensated for by increases in saturated fat”
(Voluntary agreement?? Didn’t the evidence base on voluntary agreements – aka the Responsibily Deal -sort of conclude they were all a bit worthless…..maybe industry has promised to change this time round….)



Public sector

“The public sector in England spends over £2 billion on food and catering services annually, with just under half, £1 billion, being the cost of food and ingredients”

(get on with what you can)

“ensure that there is full uptake of the Government Buying Standards for Food and Catering Services (GBSF) in central government departments”


“collaborating with PHE, NHS England and the Behavioural Insights Team to trial behavioural interventions in NHS hospitals. These interventions will measure changes in purchasing behaviour and the impact on revenue from sales.”

Healthy start

“We are re-committing to the Healthy Start scheme, which provided an estimated £60 million worth of vouchers to families on low income across England in 2015/16”



Sport in schools etc

“Every primary school child should get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity a day

At least 30 minutes should be delivered in school every day through active break times, PE, extra-curricular clubs, active lessons, or other sport and physical activity events, with the remaining 30 minutes supported by parents and carers outside of school time.


During inspections, Ofsted assess how effectively leaders use the Primary PE and Sport Premium and measure its impact on outcomes for pupils, and how effectively governors hold them to account for this


continue investing in walking and cycling to school. Walking or cycling to school provides a healthy way to start the day. The Government has committed to producing a Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy. The first strategy will set out plans for investing £300m to support cycling and walking.”




Healthy rating of schools

“From September 2017, we will introduce a new voluntary healthy rating scheme for primary schools to recognise and encourage their contribution to preventing obesity by helping children to eat better and move more.

the criteria for the rating scheme will be developed in consultation with schools and experts but will cover the school’s approach as a whole.

In addition, in 2017, Ofsted will undertake a thematic review on obesity, healthy eating and physical activity in schools.”




School food

“The School Food Plan, published in July 2013, has helped bring about whole school improvements in food. The new School Food Standards came in to force from January 2015.

The majority of schools are subject to the School Food Standards. However, some academies and free schools are not

We are keen to encourage all academies to make a clear commitment as part of tackling childhood obesity. Therefore, the Secretary of State for Education will lead a campaign encouraging all schools to commit to the standards.”



Early year settings

“PHE have commissioned the Children’s Food Trust to develop revised menus for early years settings by December 2016. These will be incorporated into voluntary guidelines for early years settings to help them meet current Government dietary recommendations.”



More apps and the like

Some will be great I’m sure, some will be pointless distraction.



My view

As far as it goes its ok, but…. Reads like a strategy that focused on what govt can internally do not what govt can do with industry and society. Clearly govt doesn’t want to pull regulatory levers.

No major surprises there I guess.

Maybe downstream devil in detail – both ways

Some hooks on which we can hang hats on etc….

But….Whats missing

as per press coverage, nothing really on pricing, advertising, availability, two for one / four for one offers on junk in supermarkets etc etc.

Little to no detail on any resourcing, no detail on implementation and accountability

Little to no insight into where the evidence based was drawn from (Mcdonalds marketing dept?)
Feels like it’s been written by the Food and Drink Manufacturers association and IEA. Have a look at their web sites and Twitter feeds, if they are saying this is all a good sound robust plan then I invite you to draw your own conclusions.

The last para says it all

“The actions in this plan will significantly reduce England’s rate of childhood obesity within the next ten years ( really……the expert commentary gives different picture ). Achieving this will mean fewer obese children in 2026 than if obesity rates stay as they are. We are confident that our approach will reduce childhood obesity while respecting consumer choice, economic realities and, ultimately, our need to eat. Although we are clear in our goals and firm in the action we will take, the launch of this plan represents the start of a conversation, rather than the final word. Over the coming year, we will monitor action and assess progress, and take further action where it is needed.”

Lastly compare the strategy to the work of the Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity (ECHO) 
This Commission took account of a wide range of contemporary research from many countries and consulted widely, producing a series of clear recommendations. Some of these are mirrored in the government’s plan, but several very important ones are not.

The differences are pretty stark

See for yourself.

And specifically –

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