HEALTH LEADERS are calling for an emergency taskforce to be set up to tackle the rising epidemic of childhood obesity.
The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) and 11 partner organisations have warned that unless urgent action is taken now, an entire generation will be ‘destroyed’ by a diet of junk food and sugary drinks.
In an open letter to the Chief Medical Officer for England, Professor Dame Sally Davies they have recommended that a national Child Obesity Action Group (COAG), made up of doctors, nurses, dietitians, dentists and schools should urgently be set up.
The aim of the new action group would be to improve existing obesity treatment services and support children to make healthy lifestyle choices from a young age.
The open letter also included a raft of other measures including:
- Increased support for the National Child Measurement Programme.
- Improved investment in data-gathering IT programmes for weight management.
- More training in malnutrition and obesity for GPs and other health professionals.
- Outreach projects to educate families about the dangers of obesity.
Dr Rachel Pryke, RCGP Clinical Lead for Nutrition said: “The nutritional patterns laid out in early years can define a child’s health for life and the stark fact is that overweight children are being set up for a lifetime of sickness and health problems.”
“As parents and health professionals, we need to take responsibility and ensure that every child has a healthy and varied diet and regular exercise.”
“Many schools are rising to the challenge and doing what they can in terms of education and outreach. Public Health England are already carrying out children measurement schemes and weight-prevention initiatives are widespread - but child obesity treatment provision is a postcode lottery with many areas having limited or no child obesity treatment services at all.”
Figures released in the most recent Health Survey for England show that 14% of children aged between 2 and 15 were classed as obese and 28% were classed as either overweight or obese.
Dr Richard Roope, RCGP Clinical Lead for Cancer added: “For the first time, we have a generation of patients who may predecease their parents. Only 3% of the public associate weight with cancer, yet, after smoking, obesity is the biggest reversible factor in cancers.
“Radical steps need to be taken - at the very least levying tax on sugary drinks. We’ve seen this approach work with smoking where there was a notable fall in the number of smokers once prices were increased.”