Good physical health is an entitlement for all children and young people, argues new report

15 Dec 2021

The Government's strategy for children's physical health, which has a 'crude fixation' on 'weight management', is criticised in a new report co-chaired by a University of Winchester expert in physical education.

The report, 'Physical Health', is a comprehensive study of children's physical health during the time of the Covid-19 pandemic. Commissioned by the Children's Alliance, it features the work of 37 nationally-renowned specialists in children's health, including Dr Vicky Randall, Senior Fellow in the University of Winchester's Institute of Education, who worked alongside lead author Helen Clark as co-chair of the report.

Dr Randall said: "For far too long now the area of children's physical health has been preoccupied, almost exclusively, on weight management and addressing rising levels of obesity. The reality: not only have we failed to make any headway in these areas, we have done so at the expense of other equally pressing health agendas.

"This much-needed report calls for action and stresses that now, more than ever, significant changes are needed to ensure that a healthy life, from the earliest stage of life, is not just for the lucky few."

The report shows that some groups of children and young people begin life hampered by disadvantage due to their family grouping, geographical, cultural or socioeconomic circumstances. Proposals to tackle this include:

Lead author Helen Clark added: "It is the season of goodwill, but as this report demonstrates, in some parts of England, a BAME girl born into a poor family is facing a future with the health odds stacked against her.

"We know that a healthy physical environment coupled with positive healthy behaviours that are established from birth can mean a blueprint for lifelong good health.

"The Government now has a unique opportunity to build a healthier course for our future adult generation who will inherit the post-pandemic world - and that's the best present for every child this Christmas - and every Christmas to come."

The report has led Baroness Frances D'Souza, Honorary President of the Children's Alliance, to call for the appointment of a new Cabinet Minister for Children.

"Without effective co-ordinated measures led by Government, we run the risk that the next generation of UK adults will be the least healthy in living memory," she said.

"The authors maintain that good physical health is an entitlement for all children and young people. A Cabinet Minister for Children would make that a focus in all Government Departments."

The report is available online at this link.

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