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‘A national embarrassment’ – obesity & sickness levels among children in England

Poverty, poor diets and a lack of access to healthy food are resulting in children in England getting shorter, more obese and sicker, health experts have warned.

A Generation Neglected: Reversing the decline in children’s health in England is a report which shows that the height of five-year olds has been falling since 2013, with UK children shorter than those in nearly all other high-income countries.

The Food Foundation charity says that obesity among 10-11 year olds has increased by 30 per cent since 2006, with one in five children living with obesity by the time they leave primary school.

Incidence of Type 2 diabetes in young people has also tripled since 2012, and babies born today will enjoy a year less good health than babies born a decade ago.

Jamie Oliver, a celebrity chef who for years has been waging war on unhealthy foods, pulled no punches in his analysis of the current state of affairs. He said: “Decades of government neglect has meant kids are suffering from more obesity-related illnesses, leading to average heights shrinking and living shorter lives – they’re not being given the chance to be happy, healthy people. And they deserve so much more than that.

‘Decades of government neglect’

“We need to reverse this trend if we’re to have the healthiest generation of kids, and to do that we need to take a serious look at the food that fuels us. And right now, it’s not pretty.

“There’s no silver bullet to fix this, which is why we need a comprehensive approach that doesn’t just tinker around the edges but revolutionises the rules and fundamentally improves the quality of food across the board. The leader who understands this and gets serious about child health will be the person who turned the tide on obesity – and won.”

Anna Taylor, Executive Director at The Food Foundation, said: “The health problems being suffered by the UK’s children due to poor diet are entirely preventable. This is a national embarrassment.

‘A national embarrassment’

“We hope this election year will mark a turning point. Politicians across the political spectrum must prioritise policies that give all children access to the nutrition they need to grow up healthily, as should be their right.”

Failure to reverse the current trajectory will, says the report, lead to a generation burdened throughout their lives by diet-related illness and the consequences that brings with it: the mental health impact of living with disease, an overwhelmed healthcare system that is unable to treat people effectively, and economic inactivity that weakens GDP.

Ahead of the forthcoming General Election on 4 July, the report’s authors are calling on all political parties to recognise the importance of the food system in shaping our nation and to ensure that every child can access the nutrition needed to grow up healthily, and commit to take urgent action.

Author: Simon Weedy

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