Why is the government decommissioning weight management services for children when obesity rates are increasing? Why are there still no tier three services for children? When will the government move beyond prevention to providing help and support for children who are overweight now? Who will fund this work?
Everyone wants to feel like they’re listened to. SHINE’s recent visit to London to share our thoughts with members of the UK Parliament’s Health and Social Care Committee was a chance for us to get the ear of people with the power to change the direction of UK obesity policy.
The call to visit came about as a result of our recent petition to fund obesity services for UK children and young people and it’s just one step in a larger process. But when we went down we tried to provide the committee with useful answers to their questions, as well as asking a few of our own.
That committee included some big names, including Diana Johnson, who’s member of the UK Parliament’s Health and Social Care Select Committee, Andrew Selous, who’s Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Obesity and Shadow Health Minister, Sharon Hodgson.
We presented alongside MoreLife with support from Dr James Nobles and Professor Paul Gately from Leeds Beckett University and brought seven young people from SHINE along with us. Destiny – one of the young people on our maintenance programme – told the story of her battle with binge eating and powerfully highlighted the need for more complex interventions for young people in addition to promoting healthy eating and physical activity.
The committee’s report ‘Childhood Obesity: A time for action’ came out shortly after our visit (link) and as expected concentrates mainly on preventative action. Marketing, advertising and sugar tax all feature heavily. But our eye did go to a brief statement on page 33, which read, ‘The Government must ensure there are robust systems in place not only to identify children who are overweight or obese, but to ensure that these children are offered effective help. Addressing health inequalities must include providing help for those children who are already obese…’ Our hopes for meaningful change to policy were pinned on this sentence but the ‘Obesity Strategy :Chapter 2′, subsequently published in June 2018, didn’t pick up this thread. There was no mention of any guidelines for intervention pathways or strands of funding. This leaves us wondering how on earth they will achieve their target of reducing childhood obesity by half by 2030.
Huge thanks to Labour MP Paul Blomfield for helping us get SHINE’s voice – and those of Sheffield’s young people – heard and also to Ben Mackay for all his support.