Comprehensive Programme Proposed to Prevent Childhood Obesity

(23.10.2016) A comprehensive programme to prevent childhood obesity, including consideration of a tax on non-nutritious foods and sugary drinks, has been called for by the World Medical Association. It also wants to see initiatives taken on advertising and marketing, and labeling. 

At their annual Assembly in Taiwan, WMA delegates said that the link between living in poverty and early childhood obesity continued to negatively affect health in adult life. Recent studies showed that marketing targeted at children had a wide influence on the shopping trends and food preferences of households all over the world. Special offers, short-term price reductions and other price promotions and advertising on social as well as traditional media all played a role in increasing product demand.

Unhealthy diets, together with a sedentary lifestyle and lack of exercise, also contributed to childhood obesity. Many children were now spending more time than ever in front of screens, rarely engaging in physical activities.

The WMA Assembly adopted a new statement saying that schools should incorporate physical activity into their daily routine and governments should work with independent health experts to produce sound guidance on food and nutrition, with no involvement of the food and drink industry.

WMA President Dr. Ketan Desai, said: ‘We know there is a link between the extent of advertising and childhood obesity, and so we are recommending that the advertising of non-nutritious products on television be restricted during programmes that appeal to children. Children frequently watch programmes designed for adults, so regulators must ensure that legislation and regulation also limits marketing associated with such programs. 

‘We are also urging governments to consider imposing a tax on non-nutritious foods and sugary drinks and to use the additional revenue to fund research into preventing childhood obesity and reducing the resulting disease risk.'