In future years, when we have successfully tackled the health crisis of childhood obesity, a number of things will have occurred to us.
First, that its effects were disproportionately centred on poorer families. Second, that we spent too long seeing this as a problem of willpower, not environment. Third, that although the issue was complex, the solutions were not.
And make no mistake: this is a health crisis. In the UK, one in 10 children start school obese. That’s enough to fill London’s Olympic Stadium four times over. And entirely unacceptable.
Indeed, the problem is most pronounced in deprived, diverse, inner-city areas – areas like the London boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark, where we work.
The impacts of childhood obesity last all too predictably through life. A child who is obese aged five and aged 10 is more likely than not to be obese as an adult, with consequent reduction in healthy life expectancy and increase in cost to the economy. But it is within our collective power to address this.
Our new report draws from the very latest thinking in behavioural science, lived experience, our work at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity, and insights from some of the world’s leading practitioners. Rather than present an insurmountable problem, it suggests the issue of childhood obesity can be addressed – with care, conviction and coordination. And this is critical. The way that we will win is to first believe that we can.
We hope that future generations will look back and see this time as a significant turning point, when society finally did what was needed to fully respond to the challenge of childhood obesity.
Because in so doing, everyone needs to play a role. The places our children grow up – our homes, schools and streets – are influenced by many different people. We will succeed by bringing them together and creating environments that make the healthy thing to do, the easy thing to do.
Kieron Boyle, Chief Executive, Guy's and St Thomas' Charity
Watch our 'Bite Size' animationGo to film
Principles for interventions
Views from our experts