London currently has one of the highest rates of childhood obesity in Europe, with the highest levels in the most deprived areas of the capital. To tackle these issues, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, created London’s Child Obesity Taskforce to identify and champion action to reduce childhood obesity and close this health inequality gap.
In September 2019, an independent taskforce published a set of 10 ambitions to improve opportunities for and support the capital’s children, with two overall aims, to halve the percentage of London’s primary school children who are overweight and reduce the gap between obesity rates in the richest and poorest areas of London, by 2030.
The Taskforce worked with lead partner Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity as well as Public Health England, The Association of Directors of Public Health London and the Association of Directors of Children’s Services London to create the action plan.
‘Every Child A Healthy Weight – Ten Ambitions for London’ includes a total of 20 calls for action, two for each ambition, across all aspects of life in the capital. Working alongside the NHS, the government, the Mayor, schools and the food industry, London boroughs have a central role to play in achieving the ambitions and working towards a healthier future for London’s children.
- End child poverty - by increasing the number of London Living Wage accredited employers, allowing the Mayor to set the minimum wage for London, and redesigning existing food voucher schemes with Public Health England and London boroughs so they work better for London’s families.
- Support women to breastfeed for longer - by working with London boroughs and voluntary sector organisations to increase the number of peer-to-peer support groups for mothers and improving data collection on breastfeeding rates by working with London Boroughs, the NHS and Public Health England to explore how mothers can be better supported to breastfeed for longer.
- Skill up early years professionals - by engaging with London boroughs, the Mayor, the NHS and Public Health England, amongst other partners, to provide food training programmes for those that engage with young children and mandatory qualifications for all chefs and caterers working in early years settings.
- Use child measurement to better support parents - by collaborating with London boroughs to co-produce, with the NHS, children, parents and teachers, guidance on how to make the National Child Measurement Programme more supportive for families and working to ensure parents fully understand results and the support available.
- Ensure all nurseries and schools are enabling health for life - by creating ‘ambassador’ nurseries and schools that build capacity and lead the way for comprehensive and bold change across London through the establishment of peer networks, and calling on Ofsted to place a stronger emphasis on the need for healthy diets, water and activity when evaluating early years settings and schools.
- Make free ‘London Water’ available everywhere - by making water appealing to children and scaling up existing initiatives to make water widely, freely and conspicuously available in all public spaces and restaurants and the introduction of ‘water only’ schools (where just water would be allowed as drinks, in addition to plain reduced fat milk).
- Create more active, playful streets and public spaces - by working with the Mayor and London boroughs to increase timed closures of streets to traffic and improving public spaces to focus on active travel, and making the impact on children’s health a key part of transport and regeneration funding decisions.
- Stop unhealthy marketing that influences what children eat - by extending, through collaboration with the Mayor and London boroughs, Transport for London’s advertising restrictions on unhealthy food (initially to all outdoor public spaces in London, sports stadia and leisure facilities, and then beyond) and working to restrict shops and supermarkets displaying unhealthy foods in children’s eyelines.
- Transform fast-food businesses - by restricting takeaway and fast-food menus to constrain the sale of unhealthy food when unaccompanied children are likely to visit, and working with the Mayor and London boroughs to support small take-away and fast-food businesses to become Healthier Catering Commitment accredited and trial tangible incentives to encourage companies to do this.
- Fund good food innovation and harness the power of investment - by creating a ‘good food’ investment fund to encourage investors to work with food and drink companies to improve accessibility to healthier options.
Building on previous action in London, the Taskforce has identified these calls to action as the next phase of tackling unhealthy weight in London – a more concerted, systems approach.
From the beginning, the Taskforce has placed understanding the realities of children’s lives at the centre of its work. The action plan was driven by engagement with children and caregivers across London, with what was learnt pulled together in four example profiles.* The Taskforce will continue to engage with children, especially those living in poverty, in codesigning solutions.
To see this plan delivered the Taskforce will also use their voice to articulate the call to action and tell the stories of Londoners, lead the way to the future through learning from others and through doing, and mobilise all Londoners to take action and be part of the solution.
The ten ambitions present a framework within which Borough stakeholders can identify and deliver action within their power. The Taskforce will continue to seek more ideas, contributors, calls to action and partners so that the most complete transformation of this city can be unleashed to offer every child the opportunity to be a healthy weight.