Today, almost a quarter (25%) of children aged 4-5 and around 35% of 10-11-year olds are overweight or obese[i]. Even more alarming is the impact on future generations. We know that obese children are more likely to become obese adults[ii], and that a child’s risk of becoming obese in later life can be pre-determined by the age of six[iii] . This could lead to ever-growing rates of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes, and spiraling numbers of strokes and heart attacks[iv].
This health crisis isn’t just a personal one. Along with how it affects people and families, the NHS is in danger of being completely overwhelmed, with more of its resources being spent on lifestyle-associated, progressive conditions[v]. The scale of the problem is at a critical level – yet it’s a crisis the UK public continues to walk towards in blissful ignorance.
At a time of austerity and ever-increasing budgetary restraint, it is important to target resources towards initiatives that are likely to have the most effect. This means intervening in the process of obesity as early as possible. Policy initiatives have come thick and fast in a concerted effort to stem the tide of increasing obesity. In England this has culminated in a national strategy that aims to significantly reduce the childhood obesity rate within the next ten years. What these policy documents lack, however, is any clear idea of how frontline professionals can ensure that these objectives may be delivered.
We couldn’t do our work without partnering extensively with healthcare professionals, who are at the heart of everything we do, and other experts, to create consistency and best practice in the advice that we provide. This collaboration with key stakeholders underpins every step of our work, from identifying what advice or support is needed, to developing the evidence-base for our programs and creating the resources that are right for both healthcare professionals, providers, carergivers and parents alike. Engagement during the creative process enables ownership and uptake. It’s this unique approach that sets us apart and that people tell us make the work of the ITF genuinely useful in their everyday lives. And we are committed to working with the food industry to ensure they play their part in tackling childhood obesity.
We know our work makes a difference, both today and for future generations, but there is so much more we need to do. With your help, we can reach more parents and families who need the support as well as work with more providers who play such an important part in shaping how children feel about food.
Let’s join forces to tackle childhood obesity – to ensure a bright, healthier future for all our children.
[i] National Child Measurement Programme 2018 – https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/ncmp-and-child-obesity-profile-academic-year-2017-to-2018-update
[ii] World Health Organisation – https://www.who.int/dietphysicalactivity/childhood_consequences/en/
[iii] New England Journal of Medicine – acceleration of BMI in early childhood and risk of sustained obesity
[iv] Health and Social Care Information Centre (2015) Health Survey for England 2014 – October 2018
[v] Estimates for UK in 2014/15 are based on: Scarborough, P. (2011) The economic burden of ill health due to diet, physical inactivity, smoking, alcohol and obesity in the UK: an update to 2006–07 NHS costs. Journal of Public Health. May 2011, 1-6. Uplifted to take into account inflation. No adjustment has been made for slight changes in overweight and obesity rates over this period. It’s been assumed England costs account for around 85% of UK costs.
Article By: Atul Singhal, Professor of Pediatric Nutrition