HEALTH experts are backing a fizzy drinks tax and a ban on pre-watershed junk food adverts to tackle the county’s ‘obesity epidemic.
The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, which represents UK doctors, called this month for unhealthy food and drink to be treated more like cigarettes in terms of the harm they do.
Recommendations include a ban on advertising foods high in saturated fat, sugar and salt before 9pm, further taxes on sugary drinks to increase prices by at least 20 per cent, a reduction in fast food outlets near schools and leisure centres, a £100 million budget for interventions such as weight-loss surgery, no junk food or vending machines in hospitals and food labels to include calorie information for children.
On Saturday we revealed that one in 10 children in Worcestershire is obese by the time they start school.
The figure rose to 18.2 per cent – just under 1,000 children – by the time they started Year 6.
Dr Carl Ellson, chief clinical officer for NHS South Worcestershire clinical commissioning group, said: “Ensuring that residents lead healthier lives for longer is part of our own five-year strategy, and we’re continuing to work closely with local partners to implement the Joint Health and Well-being Strategy for Worcestershire.”
Dr Frances Howie, assistant director of public health for Worcestershire, said: “A quarter of the population of Worcestershire is obese, and a further quarter is overweight. Changing this situation is a matter of urgency. We are concerned about creating a healthier environment for our children.”
Ross Dewar, aged 33, strength and conditioning coach for Worcestershire County Cricket Club, who is running an initiative called “Healthier Worcester”, said: “It is great they are thinking in this way but we need to help educated people on healthy choices rather than just put prices up on the bad ones,” he said. Mr Dewar is also giving away a free 14-day healthy eating meal planner to readers of the Worcester News. Visit healthierworcester.com.