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Obesity: Children

Volume 462: debated on Wednesday 11 July 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what progress his Department has made towards its public service agreement target to halt the year-on-year rise in obesity among children under 11 by 2010. (148826)

Given the complexity of this public health challenge, DCMS shares this target with the Department of Health and with the Department for Children, Schools and Families.

The three Departments are working together, through joint cross-departmental programme management arrangements, on six fronts: to change population attitudes towards eating and activity; helping children to be active and eat healthily; supporting targeted local-level obesity interventions in children; raising awareness of the importance of healthy weight to children and parents; working with local partners on delivery; and developing the knowledge base.

My Department's contribution to this programme of work is chiefly through making children and families more physically active via children's play, school sport and community sport; improving children's diet via our work with Ofcom on restricting promotion and advertising to children of foods high in fat, salt and sugar; and our work with the hospitality sector to promote healthier food choices.

Through the Big Lottery Fund £155 million Play initiative local authorities are able to develop free open access play provision in areas of greatest need in England.

And on broadcast food promotion we have worked with Ofcom to produce new rules that ban the advertising of high fat, salt and sugar foods in and around all children's programming; on dedicated children’s channels; and in programmes of particular appeal to children under the age of 16. Ofcom have also introduced new rules on the content of advertisements targeted at primary school children. These rules ban the use of celebrities and characters licensed from third-parties (such as cartoons), promotional claims (such as free gifts) and health or nutrition claims. Ofcom announced the new rules in February 2007.

The National School Sport Strategy, jointly implemented by DCMS and DCSF, is a key component of a “whole school” programme of addressing obesity. The 2005-06 school sport survey found that overall, 80 per cent. of pupils participate in at least two hours of high quality PE and school sport a week. This exceeded the target of 75 per cent. for 2006 and demonstrates a considerable increase from the estimated 25 per cent. in 2002. This target will rise to 85 per cent. by 2008. By 2010 the ambition is to offer all children at least four hours of sport a week.

We are also working with school sports partnerships to increase participation in physical activity by overweight and obese children.