Strolling Past the Union Jack

UK Childhood Obesity May Surpass the U.S.

In just a few days, the European Congress on Obesity (ECO2018) opens in Vienna. This comes as news from London suggests UK childhood obesity rates are rapidly catching up with U.S. Of course, no one is celebrating this milestone.

Surpassing the Rates for 11-Year-Olds

The latest data come from Britain’s NHS. They show that 20% of children in their final year of primary school have a BMI that places them in the range of obesity. Among U.S. children of a similar age (9-11 years), the rate is 18.5%. In England’s health survey, 23% of children aged 11 to 15 fell in the range of obesity. By comparison, the number for American children between 12 and 15 is 20.6%.

Simon Capewell, a professor of public health and policy at Liverpool University, sees the UK following in America’s footsteps. He doesn’t like it a bit:

Our worst fears have come to pass. We have completely adopted the American lifestyle with the inevitable consequences. The government needs to stand up for our children.

We have an obesity epidemic in children. And this translates into an epidemic of disease in adults of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, common cancers and mental health problems. This is a preventable catastrophe.

The UK Response

ECO2018 will have abundant discussions of public policy responses to obesity in the UK, Europe, and beyond. Saturday’s debate on childhood obesity care will feature diverse experts from the UK, Sweden, Denmark, and the U.S. Separately, EASO and WHO will present an overview on food marketing policies.

Lately, the UK has stepped up its game. It implemented an aggressive sugar tax levy and brought attention to food marketing practices. Arguably, the UK has become more aggressive than the U.S.

Will this prove to be more effective? Or will it turn out to be sound and fury, signifying nothing? We will all need to watch closely.

Click here and here for further perspective. For more on ECO2018, click here and here.

Strolling Past the Union Jack, photograph © Anna & Michal / flickr

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May 21, 2018