When it comes to preventative health policies, Scotland has pedigree. Scotland pioneered trail-blazing tobacco and alcohol controls, and now – because Westminster didn’t last year – Scotland must lead the way to protect our kids from junk food.
The need for brave and bold action to tackle childhood obesity has never been clearer. One in four children and two in three adults are now overweight or obese. This costs the Scottish economy £4.6bn each year. Obesity is responsible for 10.8% of the NHS caseload, and cuts short lives by an average of three years.
The facts are staggering, and every year the gap in obesity between the most and the least disadvantaged children continues to grow. But it doesn’t need to be like this.
Today, we call on all 129 MSPs to put child health before party politics and make sure the forthcoming 2017 Diet and Obesity strategy is as ambitious as it needs to be.
Scotland can be the first to have a cohesive strategy that (at a minimum) covers junk food marketing, food education, physical activity and school food.
Jamie Oliver’s six-point plan identifies the areas where politicians can make an enormous difference. Here are the devolved policies Scotland can lead on:
It Is every child's right to be taught about food, how to cook it and how it affects their bodies. This fundamental knowledge opens up a world of cultural and economic opportunities, but without it our children grow up without the skills or desire to eat better. This is why we are calling on Nicola Sturgeon to devote significant funding to food education. It would be fitting for Scotland to ringfence much of its share of the 2018 Soft Drink Industry Levy for this purpose, which could be as much as £44m a year.
Obesity is not inevitable, it is a crisis by design. Just as in the case of tobacco 15 years ago, billions of pounds are spent every year persuading us to consume products that’ll harm us. 70% of Scottish adults support a ban on junk food price promotions. This is why we are calling on the Scottish Government to follow Ireland’s lead and regulate, so that retailers can restrict the multi-buy discounting of junk food, remove sweets from till points and promote healthier options.
Many kids eat two of their daily meals at school – breakfast and lunch – 180 days of the year. The 366,000 meals served in Scottish schools every day have to be healthy. It matters! That’s why John Swinney's current review must honour the SNP’s manifesto commitment and ensure every child can get their 5-a-day of fruit and veg at school.
Removing the barriers to physical activity is important to get our children moving more and feeling better. Beautifully simple ideas like The Daily Mile, a free initiative where primary- and nursery-aged children run, jog or walk outside in the fresh air each day at school, are needed to improve children’s fitness, concentration levels, mood, behaviour and general wellbeing. Initiatives that promote walking or cycling over driving are vital too.
REDUCE SUGARY DRINKS
Energy drinks are directly linked to obesity and type-2 diabetes. Every single can admits it is "not recommended for children", so why is their sale unrestricted? Scotland has the power to build on the promise of policies such as the Soft Drink Industry Levy, and impose limits on children buying energy drinks, similar to alcohol age restrictions.
Jamie Oliver MBE (chef and campaigner), Chef Neil Forbes (Cafe St Honoré), Chef Andrew Fairlie (Restaurant Andrew Fairlie), Chef Tom Kitchin (The Kitchin), Josh Littlejohn (Social Bite), Angela Mitchell (Soil Association Scotland), Pete Ritchie (Nourish Scotland), Tony Singh (chef and campaigner), Chef Martin Wishart (Restaurant Martin Wishart), David Wither (Montpelier Group), Dean Gassabi (Maison Bleue Group), Oli Norman (itison.com)
Judy Murray (Tennis Coach), Elaine Wyllie (The Daily Mile foundation)
Prof. Linda Bauld (Cancer Research UK's Prevention champion), Prof. Derek Bell (Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh), Dr John Colvin, Royal College of Anaesthetists, Prof. David Galloway (Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow), Lorraine Tulloch (Obesity Action Scotland), Dr Steve Turner (Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health), Dr John Colvin (Royal College of Anaesthetists)