Tackling Childhood Obesity: UK Response to PAC

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Responding to the publication today of the Public Accounts Committee report on Tackling Childhood Obesity Public Health Minister Caroline Flint said:

"Childhood obesity is a complex issue as the Public Accounts Committee recognises. There are no easy answers or quick fix solutions. Changing behaviour requires long term action on a number of fronts and that is what we are putting in place.

"The evidence on which this report is based was gathered in 2005 and early 2006. In the interim we have achieved an enormous amount.

"This is the result of a highly co-ordinated approach. The obesity programme team works across the three main departments to ensure this approach. In addition, I have also been given the cross government lead on increasing the opportunities for physical activity.

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"Peoples awareness of the importance of healthy eating and exercise has increased significantly. Our 5 A Day campaign is having an impact. Last week the latest food purchasing figures showed that there had been a 7.7 per cent increase in purchases of fruit and vegetables and a 6.1 per cent decrease in purchases of confectionary. This continues a trend seen over the last few years.

"Front of food packet labelling has become the norm making it simpler for shoppers to make healthy food choices. Ofcom has made its recommendations on changing the nature and balance of food promotion to children. We will monitor the impact of the changes and are committed to taking further action if necessary. There has been a transformation in school food and we have beaten our own target so that 80 per cent of school children now do at least two hours of school sport per week.

"We need to fully involve parents and children in tackling obesity. We've learned lessons about what does and doesn't work. People don't want to be preached at but want support to help them change. Small changes in diet and activity can have a big impact. Similarly, broad brush campaigns are not always the most effective means of changing behaviour.

"Health Challenge England set out our plans for the next steps and we have worked closely with stakeholder to develop the programme. Our initial focus is on families not just children. The first phase of the programme will roll out in March.

"What we are absolutely clear about is that overweight and obesity cannot be tackled by government alone which is why we are co-ordinating action across government, the food and fitness industries, retailers, through the voluntary and public sectors to target action where it can be most effective."

Government will consider the report carefully before making a full response.

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