EVENT REVIEW – Parliament Street Childhood Obesity Symposium

Parliament Street’s first event of the year saw Baroness Jenkin hosting us at the House of Lords on Thursday 18th January 2018.  Focusing on Childhood Obesity, our other panellists – Ben Howlett (Director of think tank Public Policy Projects); Dr Jude Oben (consultant gastroenterologist and founder of the Obesity Action Campaign); Professor John Wass (endocrinologist and Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians); and Helen Creighton (health professional and public affairs consultant), chaired by Parliament Street’s Head of Campaigns Elizabeth Anderson – gave the audience a range of insights from different perspectives on the crisis affecting our children and young people.
With one in five children entering primary school as overweight or obese – and then one in three overweight or obese by the time they leave for secondary school – we are undoubtedly storing up potential health difficulties for youngsters.  And tackling the issues is not as easy as telling people to eat less and move more. 
Our panel highlighted the importance of ensuring a joined up approach, with Professor Wass and Helen Creighton focusing on the need to join up health policy and education policy – as achieved in Amsterdam which has seen falling levels of obesity in children, and Dr Oben on the need to treat obesity not just as a condition, but as a disease.  There remains a need to remove the stigma from obesity as a condition, and also to educate parents about the true extent of the harm that can be caused by unhealthy weight.  Parents also needed to be given not just learning, but practical help in healthy eating and promoting exercise. 
Panellists spoke in favour of the sugar tax, which could potentially be implemented later in 2018, and how funding from this could go towards further focus on physical exercise for young people through school. 
Mr Howlett spoke on the need to focus on all elements of the obesity crisis – around behaviour, environment, genetics and culture.  Takeaway culture and food advertising continues to be an issue in encouraging healthy diets.
Attendees raised a number of key points, including the need to treat over-eating as an eating disorder, ensuring that parents had the time and ability to take care of children, and linking behavioural science into political action on child obesity.
Parliament Street will continue to focus on child obesity over the coming year, and we encourage our readers to get involved in the debate.  Do you have something to say?  Contact us to write a guest blog, or keep the conversation going on social media.  Tag @ParlStreet on Twitter.

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