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Addressing the incidence of obesity, House of Lords debate - 18 July 2018

Obesity is a complex problem with a large number of different but often interlinked causes. Councils take obesity seriously as evidenced by the fact they have spent over £15 billion on public health since 2013, with over £1 billion tackling child and adult obesity, and physical inactivity.

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Key messages

  • Despite reductions to the public health budget, councils report a 50 per cent increase in spend between 2013/14 and 2016/17 on childhood obesity, and a 60 per cent increase for childhood physical inactivity in the same period. 
  • Analysis of a recent survey conducted by the LGA among local leaders on public health delivered by their local authority showed that the top priority for public health is to give children and young people the best start in life (88 per cent). The health issues that respondents’ councils are most concerned with at the present time are mental health (27 per cent) and obesity in children.
  • LGA research shows 1 in 10 children in primary school are obese, rising to 1 in 5 by the end of primary education. The ‘obesity gap’ is widening with those living in deprived communities twice as likely to be obese as those in the most affluent areas.
  • Today’s obese children will be tomorrow’s obese adults, and with this comes a range of costly and debilitating major health conditions. To tackle this issue, councils across England have adopted a variety of methods to reduce childhood obesity in their areas.
  • At a national level, Government should integrate tackling obesity across different policies. For example, greater funding of sustainable travel such as cycling and walking initiatives can promote exercise which reduces obesity whilst also reducing car use, generating wider benefits around reducing congestion and emissions
  • We are calling for fundamental reforms to tackle childhood obesity. This includes giving councils more of a say on how the sugar levy is spent; giving councils the power to ban junk food advertising on their high streets and near schools; and to close the loophole which exempts nearly 4000 academies in England from having to provide healthy school meals.

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Addressing the incidence of obesity  House of Lords debate - 18 July 2018