Level of child obesity in Hounslow reveals “failure of Tory childhood obesity strategy”

According to Liberal Democrat candidate for Brentford & Isleworth Joe Bourke the number of obese ten year olds in Hounslow, revealed in data released this week, shows that the Government’s Childhood Obesity plan is not working.

The National Child Measurement Programme measures the height and weight of over one million children each year in Reception (age 4-5 years) and Year 6 (age 10-11 years) in state maintained primary schools in England. The figures just published show that in the London Borough of Hounslow there are 3,087 ten year olds who are overweight, 1883 of them considered to be obese – that is grossly fat or overweight to the point where their weight is a danger to their health.

Hounslow mirrors the national picture, with a rapid rise in the rates of obesity in the population in recent years and a related increase in the risk of a wide range of diseases and illnesses, including coronary heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure & stroke, and some cancers. The NCMP figures show that the incidence amongst children varies hugely from one neighbourhood to another, with the highest rates occurring in the most deprived areas.

An new academic study also published this week shows that children with obesity are far more likely to develop type 2 diabetes as a young adult. According to Ali Abbasi, M.D., Ph.D., of King’s College London, one of the authors of the report: “A child with obesity faces a four-fold greater risk of being diagnosed with diabetes by age 25 than a counterpart who is normal weight.”

For Joe Bourke, all this adds up to the Government failing to tackle the issue:

“The failure of Conservatives to properly tackle childhood obesity is carelessly risking the lives of 3087 overweight children in Hounslow. “We cannot allow another five years to go by without proper steps being taken to address this problem. Liberal Democrats know it is time to get tough on advertisers and food manufacturers, to protect the future of children in Brentford and Isleworth”.

His comments echo those of the apolitical health think tank The King’s Fund. Writing on the publication of the Childhood Obesity Plan last August, David Buck, Senior Fellow, Public Health and Inequalities, said:

“After months of waiting and numerous delays, the government’s childhood obesity plan was finally published in mid-August. Expectations were high. Jeremy Hunt has described the rise in childhood obesity as a ‘national emergency’ and promised a ’game-changing’ response from the government”.

The plan re-affirmed the government’s commitment to a sugar levy but it made the ‘reformulation’ of food products to reduce the sugar content voluntary, when even industry giants like Sainsbury’s and the British Retail Consortium were calling for mandatory targets.

“It beggars belief that the government has misjudged the response of leading voices in the food retail industry, who recognise the need for the government to play a stronger co-ordinating role. To have any chance of working, voluntary action must be backed up with strong, swift and credible threats of regulation” he wrote.