In response to findings on childhood obesity by the Millennium Cohort Study, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs said:
“This alarming finding that that one in five young people are obese by the age of 14 should strike a chord in all of us. The stark truth is that overweight and obese children face a lifetime of health-related problems, including increased risk of conditions such as cancer and diabetes, if their weight is not addressed.
“As well as threatening the health of our future generations, obesity-related conditions cost the NHS billions every year, which affects everyone. The earlier we tackle this in our patients, the better.
“We must adopt a society-wide approach to encouraging healthy behaviours in the early years of a child’s life, which will define their lifestyle choices, and their long-term health and wellbeing, into adulthood. This should include efforts to ensure all children have access to healthy diets, and adequate levels of physical activity.
“GPs and our teams do talk to parents about simple lifestyle changes that can have a positive impact on their children’s health. But the buck cannot lie with healthcare professionals alone; educators, food manufacturers and retailers, public health officials and others all have a part to play, particularly in targeting those children that this research has found most likely to be overweight and obese.
“The College has supported a tax on sugary drinks, but a levy on its own will not solve the obesity crisis – it must be part of a much broader child obesity strategy which contains measures to improve eating and snacking habits, and ways to increase levels of physical activity amongst children and young people.”