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“There can be no excuse” for delay of childhood obesity strategy

There is no excuse for the government's delay in publishing the childhood obesity strategy, the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) has argued.

Last week Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said that the government's obesity strategy - originally due last December - will be published sometime in 'the summer'.

The strategy was due to be released last December, which then was delayed to January, which slipped to February/March, and has been pushed back for another four months or so to summer.

Shirley Cramer, chief executive of RSPH, said: “Childhood obesity is a time bomb on which the clock is ticking, set to wreck the future health of our children and the sustainability of our NHS. There can be no excuse for delay or prevarication when we know - and the government knows - what must be done, especially if those delays are for political reasons.

One reason for the delay has been the popularity of a sugar tax, according to reports, which David Cameron previously said is unlikely but not written off.

The tax has the backing of many other expert public health bodies including Public Health England, the parliamentary Health Select Committee, and the chief medical officer for England, Dame Sally Davies.

Recent evidence from Cancer Research UK suggests a tax on sugary drinks could reduce obesity rates in the UK by 5% in 10 years.

Cramer added: “It is hugely frustrating that the Government seemingly remains deaf to the overwhelming weight of expert and public opinion behind the introduction of a sugary drinks tax, especially in light of recent evidence from Cancer Research UK and the UK Health Forum suggesting this could reduce obesity rates by five per cent in 10 years. While not a silver bullet, this could be a flagship measure, which would strongly signal the Government's seriousness about tackling this problem - as it is, that seriousness remains in doubt.”

If there is not a sugar tax, there the government must create much tougher advertising regulation on sugary items, and a crackdown on multi-buys and price promotions for junk food, the RSPH urged.