Following today’s announcement of the government’s plans to tackle obesity, Dr Sue Reeves, Principal Lecturer, Department of Life Sciences at the University of Roehampton, believes not enough is being done to encourage healthy eating and avoiding stigmatisation:
“Reducing childhood obesity is not going to be easy. In the UK almost a third of children between two and 15 years old are overweight or obese, and obesity rates are highest in children living in the most deprived areas*. Although the government’s plans announced today can have an impact in changing people’s habits, a cross sector approach that encourages healthy behaviours and does not stigmatise obesity is still needed.
“Both the availability of unhealthy food and advertising contribute to the increase in obesity. When healthy food is available we eat more of it, so increasing accessibility through promotions and convenience is a sensible strategy. Removing unhealthy foods from till points in shops and supermarkets may also help reduce last minute purchases and possibly even reduce opportunities for pester power.
“We also need to consider the power of advertising. Children are easily influenced by adverts and this inevitably impacts their food choices. They recognise brands, especially when they are associated with cartoon characters; restricting this type of marketing to healthier options could be another way of encouraging healthy eating in youngsters.
“However, we should not forget that obesity is a complex condition influenced by genetic, behavioural and environmental factors, including socio-economic ones, and there is not going to be a simple solution, instead a whole systems approach that encourages healthy living and avoids stigmatisation is needed.”