Calls to tackle child obesity with a Cobra-style emergency task force have been welcomed by a leading fitness expert.
David Fairlamb, a personal trainer who helped launch the Journal’s Great North Fitness Revolution, backed calls from the Royal College of General Practitioners for the Chief Medical Officer to set up a national Child Obesity Action Group urgently.
The body would work along similar lines as the government’s Cobra task force, which deals with terrorism and national disasters, and would tackle “the rising epidemic of childhood obesity”, a RCGP spokesman said.
Should the body be established doctors, nurses, midwives, dieticians, dentists and schools would collaborate to try to prevent obesity and improve treatment services to stop children developing problems later.
Fairlamb said: “I think this is the correct step and something that has been needed for a long time; the government has been playing at this.
“Putting something in place with schools and school meals is important but ultimately parents must take responsibility themselves - government measures can only do so much.”
In the letter to the Chief Medical Officer, health leaders called for a raft of other measures including increased support for the National Child Measurement Programme, improved investment in data-gathering IT programmes for weight management, more training in malnutrition and obesity for GPs and other health professionals and outreach projects to educate families about the dangers of obesity.
Dr Rachel Pryke, RCGP clinical lead for nutrition said: “The nutritional patterns laid out in early years can define a child’s health for life and the stark fact is that overweight children are being set up for a lifetime of sickness and health problems.
“We are in danger of destroying the health of a whole generation of children. As parents and health professionals, we need to take responsibility and ensure that every child has a healthy and varied diet and regular exercise.”
Dr Pryke said child obesity treatment was “a postcode lottery”.
The North East has one of the highest rates of obesity in Europe and earlier this year information from the Health and Social Care Information Centre showed the North East had the largest number of obesity related hospital admissions in England.
Fairlamb added: “We have still not got it right about sugar, some children get the wrong cereal and have a sugar feast, then fruit juice and that’s before they go to school.
“If they’re in the wrong habits they might have chocolate mid-morning. This can lead to diabetes, obesity and in later life more serious illnesses.”
A Health Department of Health spokeswoman said: “Tackling obesity is one of our major priorities, but there is no magic bullet to solve the problem, and everyone has a role to play.”