It is estimated that childhood obesity affects more than 10 million children every year. The UK's action plan to significantly reduce childhood obesity is "severely limited", argue a team of experts in The BMJ. They say the government missed an opportunity to take global leadership of child health.
Professor Mark Hanson from the British Heart Foundation, University
of Southampton, Professor Neena Modi, President of the UK Royal College
of Pediatrics and Child Health, and Professor of Neonatal Medicine,
Imperial College London, and Dr Edward Mullins, a trainee in obstetrics
and gynecology, criticize a number of key failings within the report.
‘The United Kingdom's action plan to significantly reduce childhood obesity is "severely limited", argue a team of experts in The BMJ.’
They say following publication of the report 'Childhood Obesity: a
Plan for Action" in 2016, there was an "immediate outcry from the
medical and public health communities, who had hoped for much more."
They warn that "strong actions were conspicuous by their absence,
and the desired discussion of anti-obesogenic medicine [countering
obesity onset] had been watered down to an emphasis on voluntary actions
by industry, consumers, and schools."
The report, they say, "fails to recognize that overweight and
obesity in children and young people are driven by multiple modifiable
biological, behavioral, environmental, and commercial factors, some of
which operate before conception and birth."
Furthermore, the report does not "recognize that the harm extends
across generations," and "this failure", they say, represents "a major
lost opportunity for effective prevention."
The report also does not include the World Health Organization's
(WHO) Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity (ECHO) recommendations, and
by doing so, the UK government 'missed an opportunity to show global
leadership in child health."
They say it could be considerably strengthened by including evidence
based interventions, such as an industry levy on sugar sweetened
beverages, nutrient profiling to identify healthy and unhealthy foods,
clearer food labeling, and promoting physical activity in schools.
Other recommendations absent from the report include stronger
controls on advertising, mandatory food reformulation, and nutrition
They say to achieve these recommendations, health professionals
should use their national and global professional networks to coordinate
action between sectors including education, industry, government, and
As such, they suggest a new global alliance against child obesity
led by an international alliance of healthcare organizations, which "the
UK government would work with the alliance to build on their plan for
action and develop it into a strategy for childhood and future societal
They recommend the new alliance should focus on a life course
approach, where the preconception period is an "important opportunity
for engaging parents to prevent obesity and promote health."
Furthermore, there needs to be effective training of health and
education professionals on how to engage parents, children, and young
people with the issue of overweight and obesity.
Experts need to formulate key questions around preventive measures
and methods of implementation, and to set key research priorities on
infancy and the preconception period.
They stress that dialogue needs to be encouraged between industry,
policy makers, scientists, educators, professional bodies, children and
Lastly, they call for campaigning of government actions on policies,
regulation, fiscal actions, and investment, as some of these have
brought "enormous benefits" to child and population health, while
voluntary action has been ineffective.