COMMENT: We need to address issue of poverty to tackle childhood obesity

It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking that tackling childhood obesity should be simple. Get them to eat more healthily and exercise more and they'll lose weight, right?

Thursday, 11th March 2021, 12:00 am

But the truth is that the issue is much more complex than that, taking in factors such as family income, environment, learned behaviour from parents and the influence of adverts promoting fattening foods.

The big fear is what's being stored up for the future, with the health implications and the resulting cost to and pressure on the NHS.

Today we reveal that almost £500,000 a year is spent on tackling the problem in Portsmouth, yet more than one in five of 10-year-olds in the city is still deemed to be obese.

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The city council is trying to make a difference with a range of initiatives and projects to encourage children to be more active and make good food choices.

These include the idea of an obesity ‘superzone’ around city schools, although a pilot around Arundel Court School in Landport was postponed due to the pandemic.

But the reality is that childhood obesity is a national problem and councils need central government to do more if real change is to be effected. This is even more important now that the pandemic may well have made things worse.

We agree with Helen Atkinson the city's director of public health, when she calls for action via government policy, the food industry improving affordable, healthy choices and the advertising of unhealthy choices to children being banned.

But over-arching all of this is the fundamental need to address the social issue of poverty, which means many families don't have access to good quality food.

Fifteen of 125 areas in Portsmouth are classed as being within the most deprived 10 per cent in England. Until that changes, obesity may be one of the prices we continue to pay.