Childhood obesity plan could be stronger

Evolve Chairman Graham Morgan responds to the Government’s childhood obesity plan 
As the Government’s plan to tackle childhood obesity is rolled out, the strategy is not as strong as it could be.
With obesity at crisis point now and the future looking bleak for the physical and mental health of future generations, it could have included more action points.
Many of the proposed solutions are unlikely to succeed. Why? Because the strategy does not take a holistic view and is not tough enough on the food industry.

Although we welcome the call for a minimum of an hour of physical activity a day, in isolation this just reduces inactivity and only helps to reduce obesity when used in tandem with a healthy diet and strategies to increase mental and physical wellbeing. Ninety per cent of this obesity problem is the ingestion of unhealthy food and drink.
For this reason the Government’s strategy should be tougher on junk food ads and the soft drinks industry, as the latter won’t regulate itself and the incentives to reduce sugar are insufficient.
To some extent, we welcome the idea of both reducing sugar in diets and additional investment in extra-curricular physical activities, but children cannot simply ‘run off’ a poor diet.
We agree that regular physical activity (PA) in children is essential in establishing the foundations for a healthy lifestyle in adulthood. Breakfast, lunchtime and after-school clubs, such as the ones run by Evolve, are one way to achieve this, as they offer PA, encouraging healthier meal choices and mentoring sessions to address emotional issues that often lead to overeating.
These simultaneous benefits of health mentoring would deliver far more effective results for head teachers willing to invest in a multi-faceted approach.
There is an over-reliance on sport and national governing bodies to deliver the outcomes the document is suggesting. A broader approach and range of options should be looked at.
Evolve has been researching the area of children’s health and wellbeing for the last 13 years. We have independent evidence that our Project HE:RO programme leads to physical health gains, enhanced emotional wellbeing, improved pupil behaviour and better academic progress.