National Audit Office Childhood Obesity Report

9 September 2020

The National Audit Office (NAO) has published a report evaluating progress made on childhood obesity

The report examines the effectiveness of the government’s approach to reducing childhood obesity in England by considering the evidence base and the progress so far, and focuses on preventive measures rather than treatment.

Some key findings from the report that we recognise at School Food Matters:

  • Children in deprived areas are twice as likely to be obese than those in less deprived areas, and the gap is widening. This is why, over the next five years, we’ll be working with Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity on our Healthy Zones programmes, working at a local level to find effective was to tackle health inequality.

  • Previous governments have tried to reduce rates of childhood obesity but with limited success. We also echo the concern that government "has not fully evaluated whether these past strategies reduced childhood obesity … so it will struggle to prioritise actions or apply lessons from past strategies to its new approach with confidence of success.” School food plays a role in tackling childhood obesity so we need government to start measuring take-up and monitoring compliance with the school food standards so we have the evidence to develop school food policy further (a point that is highlighted in page. 34 of the report)

  • 'Progress with this government’s programme to tackle obesity has been slow and many commitments are not yet in place'. The work to update the school food standards has been slow and DfE’s healthy schools rating scheme, as a mechanism for evaluating a school’s commitment to healthy eating, has not evolved since its ‘beta-phase’.

The NAO concludes that the government will need to act with greater urgency, commitment, co-ordination and cohesion if it is to address this severe risk to health and value for money.

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Photograph of child with school dinner

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