In the U.S., since the end of the last presidential administration, the topic of childhood obesity seems to have vanished from the public conversation. But not in the United Kingdom! Great Britain, and to a lesser extent, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales, have been in a constant state of agitation over obesity of all kinds, and the intensity of interest and emotion show no signs of abating any time soon. Her Majesty’s subjects are eternally interested in how their country compares to the rest of the world, and how different areas of the UK stack up against each other.
Back in 2015, an inquiry was made to the Health Committee of the House of Commons, which resulted in a report titled “Childhood obesity: brave and bold action.” Next came “Childhood obesity: a plan for action” and a command paper, both in 2016. The next year, the Health Committee published “Childhood obesity: follow-up.” Then, in January of 2018, the government (in the person of the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care) issued a response which begins by asserting that childhood obesity is “one of the top public health challenges for this generation.”
Numbers may remain stable or increase, but rarely do they get smaller. The report affirms the widely acknowledged fact:
Once weight is gained, it can be difficult to lose and obese children are much more likely to become obese adults.
As government reports are bound to do, it stresses the enormous impact of the problem on society as a whole, because of the enormous costs of caring for obesity outcomes. The latest plans are seen as innovative and significant. Much of the discussion is about the newly implemented soda tax, or “soft drinks industry levy” as it is more formally known, and how the revenues from it are to be used.
Everyone wants to know how success is to be measured, and then to measure it. For that, good statistics need to be collected, collated, archived, and published. It is the sort of task at which government excels, and in this document the British government undertakes to carry on with extensive information-gathering and sorting.
An August 2017 article in The Lancet had helped to whip up excitement, and someone from Public Health England (PHE) was moved to respond. As Childhood Obesity News readers will recall, PHE does not enjoy universal admiration, because it is largely made up of industry representatives, who are often seen as not exactly objective about the nation’s problems with sugar-sweetened beverages and unwholesome food.
PHE chief executive Duncan Selbie’s letter to the editor took a swipe at critics:
It seems quintessentially British to complain about what isn’t happening rather than recognise and support those trying to get things done.
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “Government response to ‘Childhood obesity: follow-up’ report,” Gov.uk, 01/11/18
Source: “Correspondence,” TheLancet.com, 01/06/18
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