A NEW REPORT from the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) has revealed that reducing childhood obesity by just 1% in the UK could make savings of as much as £1 billion, through the reduced risk of associated adult health problems.
The report – backed by a number of children’s charities in the UK – looked at the how the overall improvement of health in children in the UK could lead to significant financial benefits in the future.
CMO’s latest report calls on the government, the whole health service, social care and education professionals to take action and make improvements now, presenting a strong economic case for doing more, sooner.
Professor Dame Sally C Davies, Chief Medical Officer said: "My generation unquestioningly expected our future to be better than our parents’ and grandparents’. But our children and grandchildren face a far more challenging outlook. We need a renewed focus on children.
This report questions whether we have got the balance right in our society and should act as a wake-up call. The evidence is crystal clear and the opportunity is huge – investing in children is a certain way of improving the economic health of our nation, as well as our children’s well-being.”
Specific recommendations for change in the Chief Medical Officer’s report include a review of the cost-effectiveness of extending the Healthy Start Vitamin Programme to every child: NICE should be asked to examine the cost-effectiveness of offering the Healthy Start vitamins to every child. Healthy Start vitamins contain vital ingredients for children’s development, including vitamins A, C, D – all critical for growth, vision, healthy skin and strong bones.
The report paints a stark picture of the experience children have growing up in our society, as well as the dramatic difference between the experiences of poor children and better-off children. The report highlights that other countries do much better than the UK when it comes to children’s health.
Key figures to come from the report highlighted that currently, 12.5% of toddlers are obese. 17% of boys and 16% of girls up to the age of fifteen are obese too. The long-term societal cost of childhood obesity is estimated to be as high as £700 million each year.
Dr Hilary Cass, President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said: “We know that the UK lags behind much of Europe when it comes to child mortality rates and that there is too much variation in care of some common conditions such as asthma and diabetes. We’re also faced with one in three children aged nine who are overweight or obese and storing up health problems for the future.
“Today’s report provides a timely reminder of the challenges we face and the importance of child health in the overall health of the nation. The focus on improving evidence around mental health, widening access to leisure activity to encourage children to be active, extended paediatric training for GPs and ensuring more effective transition between child and adult health services is all welcome and have the potential to immeasurably improve health outcomes for children.
“Investing in children is not only an investment in today’s young people; it’s a sound investment for the future. Healthy children are much more likely to become healthy adults. So in the run-up to the next election, as the political parties prepare their manifestos, the challenge is to ensure that child health is high on the agenda. We have a duty to this generation of children, to the next generation and to generations to come.”