Thursday 16 July 2020 / 10:30 PM Health / Jonathan Ashworth

Labour demands Boris Johnson stops dithering and take decisive action to tackle childhood obesity – Jonathan Ashworth

The Labour Party is today urging government to bring forward urgent measures to tackle childhood obesity as new figures highlight an ongoing and growing crisis.

The nation went into this pandemic facing a childhood obesity crisis. The latest figures from NHS England show that almost 700 children (under 16) were admitted to hospital because of obesity before the coronavirus pandemic – the second-highest number on record.

Early research has suggested that Covid-19 lockdowns worsen childhood obesity. Child Health experts last month warned that the coronavirus lockdown could lead to a rise in obesity for a generation of kids with a lack of exercise potentially leading to weight gain for many children.

Labour’s analysis of the NHS England’s latest figures shows that in England in 2018/19:

  1. There were over 11,000 hospital admissions (all ages) directly attributable to obesity – an increase of 4 per cent on the previous year;
  2. There were also 876,000 hospital admissions where obesity was a factor – an increase of 23 per cent on the previous year;
  3. Almost 700 children (under 16) were admitted to hospital because of obesity – the second-highest number on record.
  4. Just over 7000 people had bariatric surgery in 2018/19 – an increase of 66 per cent over a decade. This includes two children under 16 who had the procedure.
  5. The numbers of people being admitted to hospital because of obesity and having bariatric surgery are both higher in more deprived areas;
  6. The majority of adults were overweight or obese; 67 per cent of men and 60 per cent of women. This includes 26 per cent of men and 29 per cent of women who were obese;
  7. Less than half of children (47 per cent) are currently meeting current physical activity guidelines.

Being obese is known to increase the risk of a number of diseases, including heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes.

It has been over two years since the Government first published the 2nd Chapter of its obesity report, but ministers have failed to implement a single recommendation.

Jonathan Ashworth MP, Labour’s Shadow Health and Social Care Secretary, is today calling on the Prime Minister to stop backsliding on obesity and implement a radical obesity plan:

  • Protect children from junk food marketing with restrictions on advertising;
  • Create healthier retail environments, promoting healthy food choices in shops and supermarkets;
  • Mandatory and clearer calorie and nutrition labelling on all food and drinks;
  • Ban the sale of energy drinks to children;
  • Reverse cuts to public health funding to roll out weight management programmes to support people to live healthier lives.

Jonathan Ashworth MP, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Health and Social Care said:

“The childhood obesity crisis means we need decisive action from Boris Johnson, not more dither and delay.

“Ministers promised to tackle our growing obesity crisis but have not implemented a single measure in over two years since the second chapter of the childhood obesity report was published. Ministerial dither is putting children’s health at risk.

“Given the fears over the impact of lockdown on obesity levels, it’s urgent that children’s health is now given priority and the action needed is no longer ducked by ministers.”