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Government fails to highlight exercise in new childhood obesity strategy

The latest chapter of the government’s Childhood Obesity Plan – published this week – has received a mixed reaction from the physical activity sector.

While the document includes headline-grabbing measures to improve diets – such as a ban on sweets and fatty snacks sold at shop checkouts, as well as restrictions on junk food ads on TV – there is scarcely a mention of how to get children more physically active.

All five main action points (sugar reduction, calorie reduction, advertising, local areas and schools) have a heavy focus on improving dietary habits – and the first meaningful mention of physical activity within the 33-page document comes on page 27.

There, the government pledges to make schools – and school travel – more active for children.

Responding to the publication, the Sport and Recreation Alliance (SRA), ukactive and the Youth Sport Trust issued joint statement, in which called on the government to "grasp the childhood obesity big picture" and to increase efforts to get children more active.

“The publication of this new chapter of the Childhood Obesity Plan contains both new ambitions and new initiatives that will gain support and endorsement, and we welcome this, although would stress that more needs to be done," the statement reads.

“We especially welcome the renewed commitment to daily physical activity in schools, investing in active travel, and the expanded role proposed for Ofsted that we hope will see this important organisation exercise greater oversight and scrutiny around children’s health.

“That said, this plan falls short in reflecting the full role physical activity can play in addressing this complex issue and the Government must do more, and go further, to redress this."

Emphasising how the government could do more, the three organisations outlined plans for three measures.

These are to "provide greater clarity" on the future of the Primary PE and Sport Premium (PESP) funding; to tackle the challenges facing children outside of school time, especially in holidays, where health inequalities are exacerbated; and to address the reduction in the Healthy Pupils Capital Fund (HPCF), which saw the fund reduced from £415m to £100m.

The trio also called on the government to ensure there is more collaboration across industry – and to ensure that the physical activity sector is involved in decision making.

“The Government must – as a priority – bring together a diverse range of organisations from across nutrition, physical activity and mental health so that they can work together on interventions that support the health of children and young people in a holistic way," the statement reads.

"This is essential for the successful implementation of the plan."

To read the government's Childhood obesity: a plan for action Chapter 2in full, click here to download the document.

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The latest chapter of the government’s Childhood Obesity Plan – published this week – has received a mixed reaction from the physical activity sector.
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