February 28, 2006

Report issues warning over UK obesity targets

LONDON (Reuters) - The government could miss a key target
to halt the rise of obesity in children by 2010 unless it
improves leadership at all levels, an influential report said
on Tuesday.

Obesity costs the National Health Service one billion
pounds per year and in 2003 13.7 percent of youngsters were

The report by the National Audit Office, the Healthcare
Commission and the Audit Commission said greater clarity and
direction was needed by the government to halt the rise of

"Childhood obesity is a serious health problem that can
follow people much later into life," Healthcare Commission
Chief Executive Anna Walker said in the report.

"It is a causal factor in a number of chronic diseases and
conditions including high blood pressure, heart disease and
type 2 diabetes.

"If we are serious about tackling childhood obesity, then
all government agencies and organizations must work together
more effectively."

Walker said the government should be praised for setting
such tough targets but said more needed to be done to tackle
the problem. She said more guidance was needed locally for
schools, parents and health groups.

Obesity currently costs the NHS one billion pounds and a
further 2.3 billion for the economy as a whole. But if the
trend continues, the cost to the economy could rise to 3.6
billion pounds by 2010.

The report warned that a lack of "timely guidance" meant
that organizations that were supposed to be working together
had been unclear about their roles.

It also said that key parts of the government's plan to
reduce obesity had still not been published despite the initial
target being announced in 2004.

Public Health Minister Caroline Flint said the government
knew it had to do more but said huge steps forward had already
been taken.

"We know that leadership and co-ordination are going to be
crucial as is giving people information and support in making a
difference to their own lives," she said in a statement.