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First London-wide Great Weight Debate on childhood obesity

18th October 2016

Evidence shows London’s ‘abnormal environment’ causing capital’s childhood obesity epidemic.

All Londoners are being invited to share their views on how children in the capital can be supported to lead healthier lives as part of the first London-wide conversation on childhood obesity.

For the first time, London’s local authorities and NHS organisations have joined forces to tackle the capital’s childhood obesity epidemic at a London-wide level with the launch of The Great Weight Debate – a London conversation on childhood obesity.

The Great Weight Debate aims to raise awareness of London’s childhood obesity epidemic and gather ideas and solutions from Londoners to gain an understanding about what measures people would support towards legislating for a healthier environment.

Professor Yvonne Doyle, Chair of the Healthy London Partnership Prevention Board and Regional Director for Public Health England London, said:

“This is an opportunity for all Londoners to tell us how they think children can be supported to lead healthier lives and we want the conversation to include everyone from parents and schools to retailers and businesses.

“Local authorities will be holding Great Weight Debate events and activities to talk to their residents, all Londoners can complete an online Great Weight Debate survey and a roadshow will be touring London boroughs.

“A lot of work is already on-going to tackle childhood obesity but we need to work harder, faster and smarter to make changes to our environment that will reverse this epidemic.”

Danny Ruta, Chair of the London Obesity Leadership Group and Director of Public Health at the London Borough of Lewisham said:

“Global evidence highlights that we are living in an abnormal environment which is causing our childhood obesity epidemic.  We haven’t become lazier, or greedier, since the 1980s, but what has changed dramatically is the amount of high energy, high fat, and very high sugar food that surrounds us.

“There is no silver bullet for tackling London’s childhood obesity epidemic but the evidence suggests that taking a ‘whole system approach’, and doing lots of different things all at the same time, could reverse the epidemic.

“Some of those things involve people changing their lifestyles, but most involve changing the environment and we want Londoners to share their ideas on what changes will make it easier for children, young people and families to make healthy choices.”

Jemma Gilbert, Head of Prevention at Healthy London Partnership, which is co-ordinating the Great Weight Debate, said:

“Our initial conversations with Londoners earlier this year highlighted that although people initially didn’t want to talk about weight they were also deeply shocked about the impact our environment is having on our children.

“We need to recognise that it’s not about blame, it’s about our environment and although it may be difficult to talk about childhood obesity we need to have this conversation so we can find creative ways to change our environment and protect our children.

“Londoners at our first Great Weight Debate in May came up with some fantastic solutions, including PE homework, scores on the doors for healthy retailers, limits on fast food outlets and advertising bans on unhealthy food and drink and we now want to hear from all Londoners”.

Views and ideas put forward will be used to inform the next stage of the debate which will work towards making tangible changes at a community and London-wide level.

Being overweight or obese puts children at increased risk of a range of health problems, including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, pre-diabetes, bone and joint problems and breathing difficulties. It can also affect a child’s mental well-being, lead to low self-esteem and absence from school.

Londoners can visit the Great Weight Debate website to complete the Great Weight Debate survey, email in their thoughts and ideas and make a healthy living pledge.

Notes to editors

Obesity statistics:

  • London has more overweight and obese children than New York, Sydney, Paris or Madrid
  • The capital has a higher rate of childhood obesity than anywhere else in the country
  • One in five four to five year olds in London are overweight or obese
  • Two out of every five children in London are overweight or obese when they start secondary school
  • There are over 8,000 fried chicken shops in London
  • The average chicken shop meal of chicken, chips and a drink contains 70% of an adult’s daily calories
  • On average, 11 to 18 year olds consume three times more than the recommended amount of sugar every day
  • Only 28 per cent of children in England achieve the recommended activity levels
  • The average child in England spends six hours a day in front of a screen
  • Tooth decay is most common reason why five to nine year-olds admitted to hospital
  1. The Great Weight Debate is being coordinated by Healthy London Partnership and led by local authorities at a local level, with support from the London Obesity Leadership Group, London’s NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups, the Greater London Authority, NHS England (London), and Public Health England (London).
  2. Local authorities taking part in the Great Weight Debate include Bexley, Brent, Camden, Croydon, Ealing, Fulham, Greenwich, Hackney, Hammersmith, Haringey, Harrow, Islington, Lambeth, Lewisham, Merton, Redbridge, Southwark, Tower Hamlets, Waltham Forest and Westminster.
  3. The Great Weight Debate roadshow will visit Bexley, Haringey, Redbridge, Waltham Forest, Croydon, Southwark, Lambeth and the Queen Elizabeth Park in Stratford between Saturday 22 and Thursday 27 October.
  4. A report on the first stage of the Great Weight Debate, which included an event with 120 Londoners, can be found at https://healthylondon.org/greatweightdebate
  5. For more information about the Great Weight Debate please contact Rachel Barnet in the HLP communications team at greatweightdebate@www.healthylondon.org or 07725 307306.
  6. Healthy London Partnership is a partnership between London’s 32 NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups and NHS England (London), which aims to help Londoners live healthier lives and make London the world’s healthiest global city.

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