Time to Solve Childhood Obesity

Date Published
Oct 2019
Chief Medical Officer
Document Type
CMO, Nutrition, Obesity
Health & Wellbeing
Sub Themes
Physical Health
Geographic Area
Early Years, Children & Young People
Sport / Activity
Nutrition, Weight Management
This report is aimed at politicians and policy makers, now and in the future. The Government ambition is to halve childhood obesity by 2030 – in England, we are nowhere near achieving this. Yet, if we are bold, we can achieve this goal.

In the last year of primary school, on average, six children out of a class of thirty are obese and a further four are overweight, twice as many as thirty years ago. Obesity disproportionately affects children living in deprived areas and some ethnic minority groups.
Today's children are drowning in a flood of unhealthy food and drink options, compounded by insufficient opportunities for being active. But running, cycling, swimming and other physical activities, though important, will not solve obesity.
The impact of biological (e.g. genetics and health care) and social (e.g. deprivation and ethnicity) factors on determinants of health are widely accepted by health workers and health professionals. In my 2018 Annual Report, I wrote additionally about the role that the commercial sector plays in health, which I called the 'commercial determinants of health'. Like other determinants, these are not experienced to the same extent by all groups in society and can be both helpful and harmful to health.
The Government has laid important foundations for change with two 'chapters' of a national childhood obesity plan,2 a prevention green paper, Advancing our health: prevention in the 2020s, and the NHS Long Term Plan.3 If implemented in full, these plans will significantly reduce levels of childhood obesity and improve our children's health. This would be a major achievement, but the plans, alone, will not meet the 2030 ambition. To meet the ambition and children's needs, we must go further and faster.

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