Our children are getting fatter!

The £1 bar has replaced the penny sweets at the corner shop counter.

I hate using that word. I would never call a child or adult fat, it’s hurtful, but as a group it’s a fact we cannot ignore anymore.

We have more obese children in London than in New York and our children are more seriously overweight than those in Madrid, Paris or Sydney.

Two out of five children in London are already overweight or obese by the time they start secondary school.

That’s shocking!

These children might be bullied, sad, uncomfortable or struggling with sports. It might be affecting their mental well-being and more heart rendering still they may be growing up thinking this is a completely normal state. Sadly evidence shows it can also affect how well children get on at school and even how well they do in life. We need to give every child the best start in life and we are failing if we can’t help our children to be a healthy weight.

Why is this happening?

This is not about blaming parents. In a recent focus group Healthy London Partnership found that whilst a few people do think parents are to blame, evidence from experts around the world is showing that the environment we live in, particularly in huge cities like London, is causing this problem. They call it an obesogenic environment — which sounds like the aliens are invading — in layman terms it means an abnormal environment.

Abnormal because everything around us that moulds our day to day behaviours, our environment, our culture is making our children an unhealthy weight.

We sit in cars to go to school or work and sit down for eight more hours. An average child sits in front of a screen for six hours a day.

Our dinner plates are double the size of our Nan’s. Portion sizes are getting bigger, chocolate bars are longer every time I look, drinks are giant and served with cream and chocolate. Sugar is literally in everything!

And that’s become normal. A giant piece of cake with your coffee is normal now, the portion size means it should probably be shared between two or three of us but we don’t think about it because it’s served up as one serving.

Experts are already referring to this as an obesity epidemic. We are seeing growing numbers of people living with illnesses caused by being overweight like some cancers, heart disease, diabetes and this list goes on. The current cost to the NHS of obesity is estimated to be an annual £4.2billion. The NHS is already stretched and we cannot let this escalate further. We need to safeguard our children’s health now.

Healthy London Partnership is working with the experts on the London Obesity Leadership Group to start a revolution in London! We are launching the Great Weight Debate to kick off a groundswell of social action. Over the course of this year we want Londoners, communities, businesses, everyone to join us.

This is just the start…we want people to understand the scale of the problem and the challenges first and then help us come up with solutions for London, things we can do in our streets and schools, things our councils could do and some ideas that can be rolled out across the whole capital.

We’ll be warming up the debate over the next month and then taking it out to Londoners over the summer.

Read more about our work, evidence and findings on our website here or follow us on Twitter and get involved in the conversation at #greatweightdebate.

Our children are getting fatter and that’s not ok.

About the author:

Jemma Gilbert is a Londoner, mum to Jasper, Zumba lover and Head of Prevention at the Healthy London Partnership. Always trying to be a little bit healthier like most other mums!

Jemma is an experienced health strategist and has led many London transformation programmes. Since 2015, Jemma has been leading the Healthy London Partnership’s Prevention Programme to implement the Mayor’s aim to make London the healthiest city in the world.

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