Child Obesity in England: Emergency Action Needed, say GP’s

The Royal College of GP’s has called for an emergency taskforce to tackle childhood obesity in England. As a personal trainer in London I know the physical and emotional damage that obesity does to people, and I welcome this challenge to the government.

An entire generation of young people is being destroyed by junk-food and sugary drinks, the Royal College of GP’s says, which could lead to children dying before their parents, after a lifetime of ill-health.

The Department of Health is in denial about the crisis, saying “obesity is at its lowest levels since 1998” which is emphatically not the case. The government says it’s investing heavily in school sports, which is certainly a small part of the solution, but ignores the main cause of obesity, which is junk-food and sugary drinks. You can never out-train a bad diet, but the government refuses to acknowledge this basic fact.

Professor Paul Gately, Professor of Exercise and Obesity at Leeds Metropolitan University appeared on BBC News channel to explain the severity of the problem, and the lack of support for obese children in England. He founded MoreLife, which provides weight-loss programmes for children and families.

Dr Rachel Pryke, clinical lead for nutrition at the Royal College of GP’s, calls for more training of GP’s in nutrition and obesity, and more outreach programmes to educate and support families with obese children. “Childhood obesity treatment provision is a postcode lottery with many areas having limited or no child obesity services at all,” she says.

The culture of denial about the severity of the problem is not restricted to obese children and their parents, it’s strongest within government itself. Heavily pressured by the junk-food industry, the government denies that the problem is largely due to excessive consumption of junk-food, and focuses exclusively on exercise as the solution.

What should government do to tackle obesity? A tax on sugar and junk-food would be a good start. More public health campaigns (TV adverts and posters) to encourage people to eat more vegetables and real food rather than junk-food, would help too. Putting good nutrition at the heart of GP training would make a massive difference. And systematic support for obese children and their parents, as the Royal College urges, would show that the government is finally taking this health crisis seriously.

Dominic Londesborough is a personal trainer in London who helps obese people get fit and achieve a healthy weight.