Childhood obesity: follow-up Contents

7Measurement of success

78.We ended our most recent evidence session by asking the Minister and representatives of Public Health England how the success of the Government’s childhood obesity plan would be measured. That prompted the following exchanges:

Q157 Maggie Throup: Obviously a lot is happening, more than just what is in the plan, but one thing that seems to be missing from the plan is an explicit target for a reduction in childhood obesity. Why is it missing?

Nicola Blackwood: In all our discussions and communications about that, we have been clear that our modelling on the plan expects the plan in aggregate to lead to a reduction in childhood obesity of up to 20%, but if I am honest I do not think that will be the measure of success for the plan. The measure of success for the plan will be a change in our relationship with sugar, fats and high-calorie foods. That is what we need to achieve in the United Kingdom if we are to have healthier lifestyles. That is what we collectively need to work towards. We are working on that. That is what the plan is the first step towards, and that is why it says that this is the beginning of the conversation; it is why it says we will consider further levers and why we put in all the key phrases. We recognise that this is a long term challenge and one that we will only achieve by partnership working.

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Q159 Maggie Throup: We have talked about the industry side, but what we are here for is the child. We all know the stats: one in five starts primary school obese, and one in three at secondary school. In your mind, in 2025, when this is all moving, what do you want those stats to be? That is my last question.

Nicola Blackwood: I do not think about it in terms of stats. I want a child to go to school and think about food differently. I want us to break our addiction to sugar and high calorie foods. I do not want us to have the same relationship with food in 10 years’ time that we have now, and I hope that this obesity strategy is our first step in breaking our addictive relationship with high sugar, fatty, high calorie foods. I hope that we can do that.

Duncan Selbie: We need to see a closing of the gap between those who are affluent and those who are not—fewer overweight children and fewer injustices because of the differences that you experience depending on your affluence.

79.In the light of the Prime Minister’s comments in her first speech after assuming that office, when she put health inequalities first on her list of ‘burning injustices’ that need to be tackled,102 Mr Selbie’s final remark has a particular resonance for us. As we said in our original report, “The health inequality which results from obesity between the richest and poorest children reinforces the need for policies that will have an impact right across society but include measures which will help the most disadvantaged young people.”103 The importance of that point is illustrated starkly by the graph below, which shows the contribution of childhood obesity to health inequality—and the unacceptable and widening gap:

Obesity prevalence by deprivation decile 2007/8 to 2015/16

Graph shows obesity prevalence by deprivation decile 2007/8 to 2015/16

Source: National Child Measurement Programme 2007/08 to 2015/16 data
Child obesity: BMI ≥ 95th centile of the UK90 growth reference

80.We commend the Government for its promise to collect and publish regularly all the data on progress with the measures contained in the childhood obesity plan. We look forward to reviewing progress next year when the initial report is available. We hope to see clear evidence of progress and clear plans for further action if progress is unsatisfactory.

102 Prime Minister’s Office, 10 Downing Street, “Statement from the new Prime Minister Theresa May”, 13 July 2016.

23 March 2017