In advance of a debate on obesity in the Scottish Parliament today [Thursday 4 September], BMA Scotland called on politicians to take tough action to tackle childhood obesity. In a briefing paper sent to MSPs, the BMA outlined its five point plan for tackling chilhood obesity in Scotland. The paper also highlights the long term health consequences of obesity and calls on Ministers to take a cross governmental approach to address soaring levels of obesity in Scotland's children.
In Scotland in 2006/07, one in five (21.0%) of Primary 1 school children were overweight, including 8.5% who were obese and 4.3% who were severely obese. The highest levels of overweight, obese and severely obese children were found in the most deprived areas.
Dr Dean Marshall, Chairman of the BMA's Scottish General Practitioners Committee, said:
"Childhood obesity rates in Scotland are worryingly high. The Government's action plan provides little detail on real actions that will reverse this trend. It is time for the government to take tough action.
"Obesity is a very serious issue that can lead to a number of life-threatening health problems. We are in danger of raising a generation of children burdened with long term chronic health conditions. Doctors have a role to play in supporting overweight patients and talking about the dangers of obesity but there is a limit to what they can do. The BMA has been lobbying the government for some time to take real action on this issue in order to achieve a real improvement in the future health of our children. "
In Scotland, over 40 people a day are diagnosed with diabetes, and most of these cases are Type 2 diabetes, which is closely linked with obesity. Increasing rates in childhood obesity will also lead to more future cases of heart disease, osteoarthritis and some cancers. And UK wide, the health service spends at least £2 billion every year on treating ill health caused by poor diet.
Dr Marshall added:
"Prevention is much better than cure. It is better, healthier and safer if children are given the tools to manage their weight, eat healthily and take more exercise. But no-one is saying this is easy. It is crucial that we take the opportunity to halt the rise of obesity, and the host of illnesses that come with it - it is vital that the Scottish Government acts without further delay."
The report recommends that, as part of the wider strategy to tackle childhood obesity in Scotland, the Scottish Government must focus on the following five areas:
- Nutrition in schools
- The media and advertising
- Food labelling and health claims
The role of health professionals