To contribute expertise, literature or as an external reviewer, please contact Dr Sarah Bunn.
Childhood obesity and excess weight have serious implications for children’s physical and mental health. Data for England in 2018 shows that obesity prevalence was 9.7% in children aged 4, rising to 20.2% for children aged 10 years. Prevalence was higher in boys and was almost double for children living in the most deprived areas. Obesity has a strong intergenerational effect: obese children are likely to have an obese parent, are likely to be obese in adulthood and their own children are at increased risk of obesity. The health impacts of obesity are significant, with increased risk of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, some cancers, and reduced life expectancy. Type 2 diabetes is becoming more common in children since the first eight cases were reported in 2000; in 2017 there were 700 children with the condition. The NHS spends an estimated £5.1bn a year treating obesity–related conditions in children and adults.
While the primary cause of obesity is poor diet and inadequate physical activity, the contributing factors are complex and multifaceted, involving environmental, behavioural, genetic and epigenetic factors. This requires a complex, interconnected and cross-cutting policy response. Examples of interventions include bans on food advertising, food reformulation and taxation, improving nutritional standards in schools and implementing statutory health–based education, access to evidence-based child health programmes, improving longitudinal research and evaluating policy impact. In 2018 the UK Government set out a strategy with a focus on improving children’s food, providing parents with better information about products, and changing how unhealthy food is advertised.
A POSTnote on this topic will summarise the latest trends in children’s diet, obesity and related health conditions and review the impacts of previous policy changes such as the tax on sugar sweetened drinks. It will also examine the factors underlying the growing gap in outcomes for children from the most and least deprived backgrounds. The note will summarise the impact of each devolved nation’s approaches to reducing childhood obesity and highlight stakeholder views on future policy priorities. It will update the 2003 POSTnote on Childhood Obesity.
The POST Board approved 3 new POSTnotes on 16 September 2020. Topics include childhood obesity, preventing zoonotic diseases, and digital skills for life. Work on these topics will start in January 2021.
A POSTnote on digital skills for life will discuss the digital skills required for everyday life and employment, why parts of the population may lack these skills and which groups are most affected. It will consider the impact of the skills shortage on individuals and the economy as well as strategies to improve the population’s digital skills. Provisional start date: January 2021.
A POSTnote on preventing zoonotic diseases will review the evidence on a One Health approach to zoonoses prevention. It will focus on the animal-environment-human interface in both wild and domestic animals, reviewing national and international policy approaches, and lessons learnt from previous epidemics. It will also summarise opportunities and challenges for the UK’s role in global health and biosecurity policy arenas post COVID-19. Provisional start date: January 2021.