One full year has passed since the UK Childhood Obesity Plan (COP) was quietly published.
At the time of publication we were part of the dismayed, disappointed response made by a number of public health organisations. Organisations that had been promised a world leading, comprehensive strategy instead received a watered down plan with promises of a further “conversation”.
The COP did contain some valuable commitments including a sugar reformulation programme with industry, revisions of the nutrient profile model and the previously announced Soft Drinks Industry Levy. However it fell short by not tackling the top priorities, recommended to them by Pubic Health England, including price promotions and advertising and marketing of unhealthy foods.
And what of the promised “conversation”?
Well, there has been little indication that the UK Government is ready to listen to the requests for further action on the obesogenic environment.
The UK position remains important to Scotland as there are areas of reserved powers that influence our diet, not least TV advertising. Evidence tells us the current broadcast restrictions do not go far enough. Experts from across the world, including WHO, recommend restricting advertising of unhealthy foods, particularly to children. In fact there are many countries around the world who have already taken stronger action than the UK.
Today the Obesity Health Alliance published a report card on the UK Government’s Childhood Obesity Plan which concluded “must try harder”. With a lack of action to tackle advertising “it is scraping along with a C grade rather than topping the class with an A star”.
The conversation on TV and online advertising of unhealthy foods needs to progress with urgency.
We have the opportunity in Scotland to create a comprehensive, world-leading strategy that plugs those gaps and gives everyone in Scotland a chance at a healthier life.
A Scottish Government consultation document on diet and obesity is imminent. We must make sure the bold and ambitious actions needed to change the current food environment are front and central.