Government proposals to tackle childhood obesity

As part of a government initiative to deal with the ongoing childhood obesity crisis, the sale of energy drinks in the UK will be restricted and selling them to under 15’s will be banned. In addition to this, there are other plans that will force restaurants and cafes to include calorie information on their menus.

Following policies put in place from a number of major UK supermarkets, going forward, the government would make it illegal to sell energy drinks to under-16s. Figures show that a quarter of children aged six to nine currently consume them; they often contain the same amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee. Before a final decision is made, the proposals will go to consultation.

The health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has put forward a number of other proposals, which are part of the government’s goal of halving the number of obese children in the UK by the year 2030. One of these proposals is for new advertising restrictions on products that are high in sugar or salt, which are often targeted towards young children. If it went ahead, it could include a 9pm watershed on adverts for the most unhealthy products.

The issue of childhood obesity is continuing to grow, and is fast becoming one of the biggest health concerns of our time. It’s a burden on health services, both in the UK and around the world. In the UK, one in three children are obese or overweight by the age of 11. Children from the most deprived areas are twice as likely to be affected.

Jeremy Hunt said: “Parents want what is best for their children, but keeping them healthy and active can be difficult. It is near impossible to shield children from exposure to unhealthy foods. Parents are asking for help – we know that over three quarters of parents find offers for sugary sweets and snacks at checkouts annoying.”

“It’s our job to give power to parents to make healthier choices, and to make their life easier in doing so. The cost of obesity – both on individual lives and our NHS – is too great to ignore. Today we are taking steps to ensure that by 2030, children from all backgrounds have the help they need for a healthier, more active start in life.”

Donna Kinnair, director of nursing, policy and practice at the Royal College of Nursing, said: “Reducing children’s exposure to adverts for high calorie, sugar-laden food and drink is a welcome move, and will help support parents’ efforts to make healthier choices. But it is only half the battle.”

“Positive messages are a vital part of helping families make healthy choices, yet the number of health visitors has declined by 20 per cent in the last three years, and school nurse numbers have fallen even further. This means that for many parents, these messages are simply not getting through.”

“And across the country preventative services, including obesity clinics, are being slashed to the bone as public health funding continues to dwindle. Childhood obesity not only affects the lives of children now – it is storing up future problems for the NHS.”

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