A former government obesity tsar has attacked the policy of the government over Britain’s obesity crisis.
With the Department of Health placing a particular emphasis on addressing overweight children, Dr Susan Jebb suggested that this approach is completely misguided.
Jebb pointed out that two-thirds of British adults are currently overweight, and that this should be considered as significant a problem as childhood obesity.
It is believed based on many previous studies that the attitudes of parents play a major role in whether or not children end up being obese.
If parents are essentially comfortable in being overweight, it is far more likely that they will pass this on to their children, if only subconsciously.
Jebb believes that parents who eat unhealthy diets and fail to engage in satisfactory exercise will often influence children to do the same, resulting in a younger generation that is equally unhealthy.
Yet the government is mostly focusing on schoolchildren through its “Children’s Obesity Strategy”, which is expected to be published later this month.
Dr Jebb, was the Coalition Government’s lead adviser on obesity until May’s general election, yet is now openly critical of government policy.
“If the focus of this strategy is entirely on children then that would be a mistake. The Government needs to have a comprehensive strategy and that needs to include adults and children. Children live in families and families are incredibly influential to that way that they [children] eat and so we need to engage adults as well.”
In addition, the health adviser suggests that the strategy is too heavily focused on prevention, rather than also diverting resources toward treating people who are already overweight or obese.
While prevention is unquestionably valuable, the fact remains that the existing situation already represents an epidemic, and it is thus too late for the majority of overweight adults to take the preventative pathway.
“We also need to include both prevention and treatment. You cannot ignore the facts that a third of children leave primary school overweight and two-thirds of adults are overweight,” Jebb argued.
Jane Ellison, the Health Minister, had suggested in a Commons debate that the government will focus on children with the aim of creating a healthier generation of young people.
“Young children in particular have limited influence over their choices and governments have a history of intervening to protect them: we do not question the requirement that younger children use car seats on the grounds of safety, for example. Children deserve protecting from the effects of obesity, for their current and future health and wellbeing and to ensure they have the same life chances as other children, especially those in better-off parts of our society,” Ellison commented.
Results for 2014 showed that 61.7% of adults were overweight or obese (65.3% of men and 58.1% of women). The prevalence of obesity is similar among men and women, but men are more likely to be overweight.
A substantial proportion of obese adults have a body mass index (BMI) of well over 30. Women are more likely than men to have extremely high BMI values.