UK’s escalating child health crises

A ‘State of the Nation’ report focusing on child health highlights an escalating obesity crisis and what the UK should do about it.

Presented by Food for Life, a Soil Association initiative to make it normal for Britain’s children to eat healthy, nutritious food, the report spells out a five-point plan aimed at tackling the inter-related crises of climate, nature and health.

“These recommendations highlight the value of real, fresh food, which is often overlooked in the hype around obesity and calories,” says Soil Association CEO Helen Browning (pictured right). “They are attentive to the voices of young people, and I am convinced they will provide vital impetus towards the task of transforming children’s food in England for the better.”

The report reveals:

  • In England, 2019 was the fourth consecutive year that severe obesity among children in year 6 (aged 10) has broken records, and it is up by more than a third since 2006.
  • The UK has the highest rates of obesity among 15 to 19-year-olds in Europe. In a study of 14 European countries, the UK also had one of the greatest differences in obesity levels between young people living in the poorest areas of the country and the richest.
  • Four in ten children leaving primary school will be overweight or obese by 2024. Public Health England says the proportion of children aged 10 and 11 who are an unhealthy weight when they leave primary school is predicted to rise by 11% within five years.
  • Nine out of ten pre-school children eat too much sugar. Data from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey show that although children should get no more than 5% of calories from sugar, 87% of children exceeded that limit.
  • Fatty liver disease is becoming an ‘epidemic’ among young people in England. A study of 4000 young people found that 20% of participants had some form of fatty liver disease, prompting experts to warn of a fatty liver disease ‘epidemic’ in young people.
  • Overweight and obesity prevalence is more than twice as high in the poorest areas.
  • 76% of parents agree that Ofsted should monitor a healthy schools rating scheme.

The report’s five recommendations are:

  • 1. Introduce a Plant Protein Day in schools
  • 2. Set an ambitious target for organic in public procurement, including in schools
  • 3. Ensure compliance with School Food Standards to raise the quality of school meals
  • 4. Ensure school meals are adequately funded and ‘Free School Meals’ given a new name
  • 5. Extend the Soft Drinks Industry Levy to artificial sweeteners

Look out for more details and comment in the Spring 2020 issue of Better Retailing Magazine.

Read the full report here.

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