Step 2 of the UK government’s childhood obesity plan

The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH), an independent health education charity, has warmly welcomed the highly anticipated publication of Chapter 2 of the Government’s Childhood Obesity Plan, which sets out a comprehensive strategy to tackle the crisis at national, local and school levels

Crucially, the strategy proposes serious measures to address children’s exposure to junk food advertising on television and online, and calls for a ban of price promotions on products that are high in fat, salt or sugar (HFSS) – elements which were glaring omissions from the first iteration of the Plan, but which have long been called for by RSPH as critical in tackling health inequalities and the childhood obesity crisis.

RSPH carried out a snapshot survey of 200 of its members (public health professionals) to ask them to prioritise a list of policy measures for inclusion in the new Plan. The top 10 prioritised actions were as follows, with at least seven out of 10 (or a similar measure) included in the Government’s announcement:

  • Clearer information on sugar content on food and drink labels
  • Not specifically mentioned, but a mandate will be introduced for calorie labelling on all out of home food, including restaurants and takeaways.

  • Measures to promote active travel (walking and cycling)
  • Funding will be provided for cycling and walking to school.

  • Stronger planning powers for local authorities to restrict clustering of fast food takeaways, especially near schools
  • Not specifically included, but there will be training for local authority planning professionals on healthy environments.

  • Mandatory sugar reduction targets for food manufacturers
  • Not mandatory targets, but a 20% tax will be enforced on sugary foods if not reduced voluntarily by industry.

  • Ban on HFSS food advertising on TV before the 9pm watershed
  • The Government will launch a consultation into the implementation of a 9pm watershed on the advertising of HFSS food.

  • Better training for health and care professionals on tackling obesity
  • Training will be provided to healthcare professionals when dealing with families and children affected by childhood obesity.

  • Ban on cartoon characters being used to promote high fat, salt or sugar (HFSS) foods ?
  • Uncertain at this time – TBC.

  • Increased use of exercise referral programmes by health and care professionals
  • Not included.

  • Ban on sweets/chocolate at supermarket checkouts
  • A ban on end of aisle sales will be implemented.

  • Ban on upselling/buy-one-get-one free (BOGOF) deals on HFSS foods
  • There will be a ban on BOGOF deals on HFSS foods.

Shirley Cramer CBE, Chief Executive, RSPH, said: “We highly commend the Government’s bold plan to tackle the childhood obesity crisis, which represents a significant step forward over the previous version. This phase of the Government’s strategy demonstrates a far greater commitment to protect our children’s health and wellbeing – both in childhood and for their future life as an adult – as well as the long-term sustainability of the NHS.

"Measures to reduce children’s exposure to advertising and price promotions for unhealthy food, such as the 9pm watershed, are particularly welcome, as are strengthened nutrition standards in schools and inspection of this by Ofsted.

“All children deserve equal access to a happy and healthy life, and an ongoing and sustained commitment to the word and spirit of this plan will be vital if we are to ensure it is effective in creating a health promoting environment and overcoming many of the health inequalities that children currently face.”

The RSPH is dedicated to protecting and promoting the public’s health and wellbeing. With more than 6,000 members from the public health community both in the UK and internationally, its operations include an Ofqual recognised awarding organisation, a training and development arm, and health and wellbeing accreditation.

The charity also hosts health conferences; publishes an internationally renowned journal Public Health; and develops policy and campaigns to promote better health and wellbeing.

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