Tower Hamlets Council Teams Up with Cancer Research UK to Tackle Childhood Obesity

Mayor John Biggs is backing a hard-hitting campaign from Cancer Research UK aimed at tackling childhood obesity.

Mayor of Tower Hamlets John Biggs and Councillor Amy Whitelock Gibbs gave their support after the charity transformed a store front on Bethnal Green Road into an XL school uniform ‘shop’ window on Wednesday 31st August to show the new norm of larger school uniforms across the UK.

Almost 42 per cent of children in Tower Hamlets are overweight or obese by the time they leave primary school.* Being overweight or obese is the single biggest cause of preventable cancer in the UK after smoking and contributes to 18,100 cases of the disease every year. It is linked to 10 types of cancer including bowel, breast, and pancreatic.

The Conservative Government promised a robust strategy to tackle the crisis of childhood obesity. Instead, the Government published a weak plan without any commitments to protect children from junk food marketing or vital mandatory targets to reduce the amount of fat, sugar and salt in food.

The news comes as Tower Hamlets Health & Wellbeing Board will shortly be consulting on a new Health & Wellbeing Strategy, including a priority on tackling childhood obesity. The Council also already has a range of programmes and initiatives in place to support all residents in making healthier lifestyle choices.

Councillor Amy Whitelock Gibbs, Cabinet Member for Health & Adult Services, said: “The evidence is clear – we need to act now to prevent a generation of youngsters in Tower Hamlets facing a future of ill health, shortened lives, and an overstretched NHS.

“We know it can be really tough for families, but the fact is that obese children are around five times more likely to grow into obese adults, and obese adults are more likely to develop cancer and other diseases. Child obesity is a complex issue and there are lots of factors working against families when it comes to helping children make healthy choices – including being bombarded with junk food advertising and snacks targeted at kids which have huge hidden amounts of fat, sugar and salt.

“Not enough is being done nationally by the Government, so we plan to make reducing childhood obesity a key priority for our new Health and Wellbeing Strategy. By working with partners such as Cancer Research UK, we can take steps to meet that goal.”

Mayor John Biggs said: “Childhood obesity is a real concern in Tower Hamlets and we need to make it easier for residents, especially children, to make healthier choices. From encouraging children to do a mile’s exercise a day through the Daily Mile scheme, to  teaching them about healthy eating, we already have a number of initiatives to tackle childhood obesity.

“By teaching children about healthier choices and helping parents to encourage those choices, we can dramatically improve their future health and quality of life.”

Alison Cox, Cancer Research UK’s director of prevention, said: “With so many overweight and obese children in Tower Hamlets, we are seeing a greater need for larger school uniforms.

“The Government’s childhood obesity plan is simply not up to tackling the issue, so we’re pleased to have the support of Tower Hamlets Council in raising awareness.

“It will take more than encouraging exercise and a sugar tax to tackle the obesity epidemic. The Government has already recognised the influence of junk food marketing on children’s health by banning junk food advertising during children’s programmes - it’s time to close the loop hole during family viewing time.

“The Government has missed a real opportunity to save lives. So now we need as many people as possible to email their MP and demand robust action to give our children the best possible chance of a healthy future.”

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