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Doctors are calling for new parents to be given guidance on the benefits of healthy food and breastfeeding, in a bid to halt the rising levels of obesity in British children.
They also called for a 20 per cent tax on all sugary soft drinks and a ban on advertising of foods high in saturated fats, sugar and salt before 9pm.
Medical professionals, from surgeons and psychiatrists to paediatricians and GPs, set out their recommendations for tackling obesity in the UK in a report published by the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (AoMRC).
'Measuring up: the medical profession's prescription for the nation's obesity crisis' presents an action plan for future campaigning activity, setting out 10 recommendations for healthcare professionals, local and national government, industry and schools which it believes will help tackle the nation’s obesity crisis.
Obesity levels in the western world are reaching unprecedented proportions and this report follows an inquiry conducted by the Academy Obesity Steering Group.
The report cites figures from The National Child Measurement Programme 2011-12 which show that for children aged 10-11, one in five in the UK are obese and one in three are overweight or obese.
The report wants to see more support for new parents and 'skilling up' of the wider early years workforce to deliver basic food preparation skills to new mothers and fathers, and to guide appropriate food choices which will ensure nutritionally balanced meals, encourage breastfeeding and use existing guidance in the Personal Child Health Record as a tool to support this.
‘Poor diets tend to run in families. Therefore having what it termed ‘a whole family approach’ is the most effective approach – in other words if parents have good food habits they are likely to ‘rub off’ on their children,’ said the report.
Professor Terence Stephenson, a paediatrician and chair of the Academy, called it “the biggest public health crisis facing the UK today”.
He said: “It’s now time to stop making excuses and instead begin forging alliances, trying new innovations to see what works and acting quickly to tackle obesity head on - otherwise the majority of this country’s health budget could be consumed by an entirely avoidable condition.”
He added: “We’ll be working with a range of expert individuals and organisations to take each of these recommendations forward. The healthcare profession has taken the step of uniting to take action – and we’re calling on others to step up and take responsibility too”.
Paul Lindley, founder of babyfood brand Ella's Kitchen and the Averting A Recipe For Disaster campaign – a new campaign launched this month calling for a long-term plan to improve childhood nutrition in the under-fives, has backed the report.
He said: “The report from the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges acts as a powerful message to government from the medical profession that the time is up for delaying action on diet-related disease. It puts forward some valid suggested solutions, yet the reality is that this is a multi-faceted issue that goes further than obesity, requiring collaborative and coordinated solutions from industry, government, educators, individuals and the media.”
However he believes the sugar tax will not solve the problem, in of itself and said: “Tax and regulation should be at least considered as part of this mix, however if these measures are to be used, they must be seen as realistic threats that will be put into action and be part of a wider co-ordinated strategy.
“The report's recommendations around nutritional advice for new mothers is something that the Averting A Recipe for Disaster campaign supports strongly. This focus on improving nutrition for children in their earliest years is absolutely vital. The babies of today are the parents of tomorrow and we have a small window of opportunity to shape their food preferences and habits - that opportunity must be taken now.”