Today we see an announcement in the media that the UK Government is moving into the second phase of it's 'Childhood Obesity Plan' with a proposed ban of sweets at supermarket checkouts.
The announcement by Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt is for a consultation by the end of the year on a number of measures as reported by the BBC;
- Banning the sale of sweets and snacks at checkouts, shop entrances and in buy-one-get-one-free deals,
- New restrictions on advertising unhealthy food to children on TV and online, which could include a pre-9pm ban
- Clear calorie labelling in restaurants, cafes and takeaways, to help families know what they are eating
- Ending the sale of energy drinks containing high levels of caffeine, to children
Hunt is also quoted as saying;
"Parents are asking for help - we know that over three quarters of parents find offers for sugary sweets and snacks at checkouts annoying.
"It's our job to give power to parents to make healthier choices, and to make their life easier in doing so."
The first part of the plan was been implemented with a "sugar tax" on fizzy drinks, although quite amusingly, the revenue expected from the tax was reduced before it even came in because manufacturers made changes in advance.
The Plan tells us;
"The economic costs are great, too. We spend more each year on the treatment of obesity and diabetes than we do on the police, fire service and judicial system combined. It was estimated that the NHS in England spent £5.1 billion on overweight and obesity-related ill-health in 2014/15."
Looking through the Obesity Plan, we discover that children need exercise and that in an energy balance, if you put more in that you take out then there's a problem. The introduction is a work of genius of stating the bleeding obvious;
"However, at its root obesity is caused by an energy imbalance: taking in more energy through food than we use through activity."
The Plan goes into some detail on how the problem is to be tackled, covering taxation, working with manufacturers, working with schools on exercise and food, food labelling, the use of technology and working with healthcare professionals.
Active travel is mentioned;
"We will continue investing in walking and cycling to school. Walking or cycling to school provides a healthy way to start the day. The government has committed to producing a Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy. The first strategy will set out plans for investing £300m to support cycling and walking. It will set a clear target to increase the number of children walking to school as well as continued support for Bikeability cycle training for children."
Yes, that is the extent of the reference in the plan. £300m. Targets for walking. Training. Of course, they've thought about children building in exercise at school;
"Furthermore, we will make available a new interactive online tool which will help schools plan at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day. This will help schools identify gaps in the existing opportunities for children to be active and will recommend a number of solutions they can choose, for example after school clubs, initiatives such as the daily mile, creating an active playground or having an active lesson."
This is the problem with the UK, we don't join the dots. We have problems with people not having enough exercise, yet we keep building roads while making cuts to bus networks and not funding active travel properly. We have an air pollution crisis, yet our government pursues airport expansion and cancels rail electrification.
It's all very unenlightened and continues to show that the UK is a country without a plan, relying on unsustainable growth and frittering revenues on building stranded assets that we cannot afford to maintain or investing in areas where we have little to show for the fortunes we've spent.
A Dutch school-run