Obesity: Have 20 years of policy had any effect?

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The Prime Minister has launched a new obesity policy in England.

This will not be the first attempt to tackle the problem: At least a dozen policies or white papers on the subject have been announced since 1997.

So have 20 years of goals and policies had an impact?

Obesity reduction goals

In 2008, a comprehensive report on obesity aimed to improve diets, increase exercise, and train personalized help to address the problem.

It also introduced two key objectives:

  • The United Kingdom would be the first major nation to reverse the trend of increasing obesity.
  • To reduce childhood obesity levels to 2000 levels by 2020

The World Health Organization (WHO) has a measurement of obesity that is calculated by taking a sample of people from most countries and looking at their body mass index, or BMI, to see if they were at a healthy weight for their height. .

In 2008, 59.5% of adults in the UK over the age of 18 were overweight or obese.

For 2016, the figure was 63.7%. This means that, at the time, the United Kingdom had the 30th highest proportion of overweight people of the 191 countries listed.

As for England alone, the Annual England Health Survey suggests that 63% of adults over the age of 16 are overweight or obese.

But it suggests that while obesity rates have increased significantly since 1993, they have stabilized in recent years.

How has obesity changed over time?

% of population over 16 in England

The second objective was to reduce childhood obesity.

With the England Health Survey, we can estimate that the proportion of obese or overweight from two to ten years was the same in 2018 as in 2000, a total of 25%. During the same period, the proportion of overweight people ages 11 to 15 increased from 31% to 34%.

How has childhood obesity changed?

% of children who are overweight or obese

All of these results are based on surveys, so there is a margin for error in the data.

In 2008, the Labor government attempted to create a more accurate picture of childhood obesity by measuring almost all children in Reception and Year 6.

These data show a more sustained increase in childhood obesity than the England Health Survey.

Childhood obesity by type

% of overweight 6-year-olds, England

The conservative-led coalition produced its own goals in 2011, hoping to see a steady decline in childhood obesity by 2020.

We don’t have data for 2020 yet, but there doesn’t appear to have been a long-term decline.

Increasing physical education in schools

In 2002, the Labor government launched a physical education (PE) policy aimed at linking local schools with specialized sports colleges in their area.

The scheme came with the goal of getting 85% of children to do at least two hours a week of physical education or sport by 2008.

The government said it exceeded the target, reaching 86%, compared to the 25% estimated when the plan was launched.

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The scheme was completed in 2010 by the conservative-liberal-democratic coalition government. They also removed the requirement to record how much exercise was performed in schools, although they said they expected schools to maintain current levels.

There is some evidence that the amount of time spent doing physical education decreased in the following years, which came from teacher surveys and also figures on the number of hours taught by trained physical education teachers.

In 2016, conservatives announced that using the sugar tax money, there would be an increase in financing for sports or physical education.

In the same year, its childhood obesity plan also recommended that children get at least one hour of exercise a day, with at least half an hour at school and half an hour with the support of parents and caregivers outside of school.

How much exercise do children do?

% of children by different levels of activity, England

For 2018-19, it was estimated that just under half of children met that goal.

Eat your 5 a day

The 5-day catchphrase became government policy in 2003.

Since then, the proportion of adults eating five servings of fruits and vegetables a day has increased from about 24% to about 28%, according to the NHS Health Survey for England.

On average, adults ate 3.7 servings of fruits and vegetables a day compared to 3.4 in 2003.

However, the proportion that eats less than two servings a day has remained approximately equal to 27%.

Reduced inequality of obesity.

The conservative government’s strategy against childhood obesity began by saying that “the burden is more difficult for low-income children.”

Over the past decade, the gap in childhood obesity levels between the poorest and the richest increased from 8.5 percentage points to 13.5 percentage points.

Obesity and deprivation

% of children obese by level of deprivation in the neighborhood, England

No specific objectives were given.

Across England, obesity rates vary considerably, from over 75% of all adults in Rotherham, Hartlepool and Thurrock to less than 45% in Camden and the City of London.

Sugar tax

The UK introduced a tax on high sugar drinks in April 2018. Businesses must pay:

  • 24p per liter of drink if it contains more than 8 g of sugar per 100 ml.
  • 18 p per liter of drink if it contains between 5 and 8 g of sugar per 100 ml

The policy was declared successful even before its launch, as manufacturers changed their beverage recipes to avoid paying the tax.

Between 2015 and 2018, the total amount of soft drinks sold containing at least 5 g of sugar per 100 ml decreased by 50%, while sales of beverages containing less than 5 g per 100 ml increased by 40%.

The amount of tax paid in each quarter since the tax was launched has been higher than in the first, suggesting that reductions in sugary drinks sold have not continued.

Soda industry levy

Quarterly taxes in £ m

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