It’s said that a week is a long time in politics – but nearly a year after it was originally planned for publishing, the childhood obesity strategy is now out and has been issued in what is a very different political landscape following the EU referendum.
There are a number of points to welcome in the strategy. As this site has highlighted on a number of occasions, early intervention is crucial in attempts to combat rising childhood obesity levels. The strategy acknowledges this, with a number of measures aimed directly at the early years. Indeed, the widening of the definition of childhood obesity from 2 to 15 shows the Government understands the importance of a toddler’s diet.
In particular, the following measures are welcome:
– New voluntary dietary guidelines for early years settings in 2017
– Encouraging HCPs to “always” talk to parents about their family’s diet, and work towards “making it the default to weigh everyone”
– A review of nutrition and weaning advice in materials for visits by midwives and HVs to see what can be strengthened “so new families get the best advice to ensure a focus on healthy weight”
The actions included in the strategy point to the start of a much broader, but forensic, dialogue between parents, carers, HCPs and local authorities. However one vital area is still missing from Government action – the period between conception to age two. As the research highlighted in the site’s evidence base points to, the diet of parents and babies in the first one thousand days has a disproportionate impact on the likelihood of becoming overweight or obese later in life.
The onus in Government for this early intervention and early years agenda will sit both with the Department of Health and Department for Education. The appointment of Caroline Dinenage to the Early Years brief at DfE is very welcome. We look forward to working with her and other partners to make sure the childhood obesity strategy is just the beginning of a journey that will see our young children’s nutrition and physical health prioritised.