COMMENT: Increasing awareness of what we eat is crucial

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Are we bringing up a generation of overweight, unhealthy children who eat the wrong things and don’t exercise enough?

That would seem to be the shocking conclusion from our report on the front page and page seven today.

Figures released by NHS Digital show that the number of overweight or obese primary school children in the Portsmouth area has increased in the past 12 months.

From reception to Year Six, the story is worryingly the same.

It is plain that something has to be done. Because as Cllr Izzi Seccombe, chairman of the Local Government Association’s community wellbeing board, says: ‘Today’s obese children will be tomorrow’s obese adults, and with this comes a range of costly and debilitating major health conditions that could bankrupt adult social care and NHS services.’

Public Health England is right to call for urgent action. But we have to be realistic. This is not an overnight problem and there are no easy answers.

Jennie Leleux, health and wellbeing specialist in childhood obesity for PHE south east, is spot on when she says ‘there is no single solution to reverse what’s been decades in the making’.

Increasing awareness of what is in the food we eat is key, so we applaud the new Be Food Smart mobile phone app that allows people to see how much sugar, saturated fat and salt is in a product.

But that will not work unless parents accept they have a responsibility for the wellbeing of their children, watching what sugary, fatty and salty foods they are eating and trying to ensure they have a balanced diet.

The food industry must also accept it has to do more, while councils and health bodies must keep campaigning to get people to live their lives in a healthier way. Because if the message does not get through, the obesity crisis will only get worse.