Nicola Sturgeon has set the goal of reducing childhood obesity by 50% in the next 12 years – with TV chef Jamie Oliver saying the target shows Scotland’s First Minister “cares” about youngsters’ health.
The Scottish Government will formally include the ambition in its Healthy Weight and Diet plan, which is due to be published this summer.
Ms Sturgeon announced the move as she met the celebrity chef, who has previously campaigned to make school dinners healthier, to discuss the problems of childhood obesity and healthy eating.
Almost a third (29%) of Scottish children are at risk of being overweight, with 14% at risk of obesity, according to the latest figures.
Meanwhile nine out of 10 people believe the increasing number of Scots who are an unhealthy weight is a serious problem for the nation.
Ms Sturgeon said: “Obesity is a serious public health issue which cannot be ignored. Evidence shows obese children are likely to stay obese into adulthood and become more likely to suffer health problems such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases at a younger age.
“Our guiding ambition is to halve child obesity in Scotland by 2030 and we’ll outline in our forthcoming Healthy Weight plan how we will develop the necessary actions to achieve this, and help everybody make healthy choices about food.”
Oliver added: “First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has shown she cares about the health of Scotland’s kids by committing to halving childhood obesity in the next 12 years. We look forward to seeing her strong multi-layered strategy.”
Ministers at Holyrood have already consulted on plans to end cut price deals on foods which are high in fat, salt and sugar, including a possible ban on multi-buy deals for junk food.
They are also calling for a ban on TV advertising for unhealthy food and drinks before the 9pm watershed, saying if Westminster does not act on this the Scottish Government will press for powers in this area to be devolved.
Ms Sturgeon said: “We will tackle junk food promotions and the marketing of unhealthy food, such as multi-buys, that encourage overconsumption.
“To ensure that the steps we take are proportionate and deliver beneficial outcomes, we will consult widely with consumers, suppliers and retailers following the release of the new plan.
“Diet and activity go together and our Healthy Weight plan will build on programmes like Scotland’s Daily Mile that encourage children to be more active, by helping them to improve diet as well and to ensure our younger generations can live fit, healthy and active lives.”
Doctors welcomed the move with Peter Bennie, chair of the British Medical Association (BMA) Scotland, stating: “Obesity is a major public health challenge that we must do far more to address in Scotland.
“Almost every doctor working in the NHS today will be dealing with patients who are overweight or obese and who will often have additional health needs as a result.
“A target to halve the rate of child obesity in Scotland is a strong ambition against which to measure progress, but achieving it will depend on what concrete steps we are prepared to take as a country to address obesity.
“Restrictions on marketing of unhealthy food and drink, better labelling, changes to planning policy, and the provision of free fruit and vegetables to primary school children are all important actions that doctors are looking to the Scottish Government to include in their coming obesity strategy.”
Meanwhile Caroline Cerny of Obesity Health Alliance said: “With over 29% of children in Scotland at risk of being overweight or obese, it’s great to see Scottish Government making bold and much needed commitments to reduce childhood obesity.
“Restricting junk food marketing and promotions on unhealthy food is a key part of tackling the current environment which pushes us towards unhealthy choices.
“We’re pleased Scotland is leading the way on this – something that is strongly supported by the public and health experts.”