County health chiefs are planning to put pressure on government to tackle childhood obesity as hundreds of children in Bucks are severely overweight.
Members of Bucks County Council’s (BCC) health and adult social care select committee have spent the last eight months investigating ways to reduce childhood obesity in the county.
A report presented to the committee on July 24 identified a range of actions to tackle the issue– including supporting schools in providing “consistent” personal, social and health education (PSHE) across the curriculum.
However members accepted the government will need to make changes within the food and drink industry at a national level in a bid to change attitudes towards eating healthily.
Council figures show 1,000 children in reception classes across the Bucks area are overweight or obese.
The issue appears to become more severe as children get older, as more than a quarter of pupils in year six are classed as being either overweight or obese.
Speaking at the meeting, Wycombe District Councillor, Tony Green, called for more powers to be given to planning committees to block the approval of plans for unhealthy food outlets.
He said: “We do need to lobby government because there are a number of things that only they can influence.
“And I think one of the things that affects us locally is planning. At a district council level when dealing with planning applications we can’t stop businesses because of the type of food they sell, or the location of where that business is going to be.”
Chairman of the committee, Brian Roberts, said childhood obesity “is a very serious problem” however added: “it is more complex than people just being overweight”.
He said: “There are huge health issues here, huge economy issues, pressures on the health service and it’s something, although it’s a national problem, we felt that if we can tweak a few bits at this end.
“We will be alerting the health minister, we will be alerting local MPs, we will be alerting anyone we think we can influence with this information, certainly education authorities, Ofsted.”
The council also plans to write to the Department for Education to show support for launching a healthy schools rating scheme – which could then be used by Ofsted as part of its inspection criteria.
Councillor Ralph Bagge said the issue of childhood obesity is a “contentious” topic, adding: “very often the best thing for the child isn’t what the parents would choose to do”.
He said: “There is a huge amount here in terms of education and challenge and as we worked through it we felt it is unfair to burden everything on the schools, because they have a huge challenge already.
“However having said that, there are shining exemplars within the county of schools doing an excellent job in terms of raising the awareness of diet and healthy eating.”
The report will be presented to BCC’s cabinet in October.