Public health challenge

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Childhood obesity is one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century.

In Sheffield, a fifth of children in reception class – aged four and five – are overweight or obese. This rises to one in three by the time they reach year six.

Overweight children become overweight adults and as a result are far more likely to develop conditions such as diabetes and heart disease at a younger age than we’ve seen in previous generations.

These conditions have a devastating impact on individuals and place a huge financial burden on our already overstretched NHS.

With local councils in England warning this week that government cuts to public health funding could hamper their efforts to tackle obesity, ministers must put our children first.

The Government’s desperately needed childhood obesity strategy has been repeatedly delayed, and worryingly, a leaked draft of the document suggests that minister’s pledges to help protect our children, have been watered down after lobbying from the food industry.

It is vital that the government produces a comprehensive and bold childhood obesity strategy with ambitious targets, backed up by legislation, for the reduction of sugar, saturated fat and salt from our food, and introduces restrictions on junk food marketing to prevent manufacturers targeting children.

Professor Parveen Kumar

Board of science chair, British Medical Association