The total number of overweight and obese children rose from 22.7% to 27.7% in this period. Obesity increased most in older children aged 8 to 10, rising from 11.2% in 1995 to 16.5% in 2003. Levels of obesity were similar for both sexes, increasing from 9.6% in 1995 to 14.9% in 2003 for boys and from 10.3% to 12.5% for girls. (Mayor BMJ.2005.)
The government's resolution to provide every child with a healthy and safe life that will be economically well off and be enjoyable and productive to society was made clear with the publication of the Green Paper called 'Every Child Matters,' in 2003. The Child Act became law in 2004 and the Children's Plan published in 2007 came out with the strategy to make England a haven for children. An important part of this plan apart from education to every child and improving the economic circumstance, is the important factor of children's health. Childhood obesity is not only a threat to the health of children but also drains the resources of the National Health Service. It is estimated that obesity already costs the NHS directly around 1 billion a year (Third Report of HC, 2003-04). It has been estimated that, if the present trend continues, then by 2010 the annual cost to the economy would be 3.6 billion a year (D. Wanless, 2004). The 2004, Treasury Spending Review made the reduction of childhood obesity a Public Service Agreement (PSA) target. Obesity is a complex problem and hence the interventions needed are an effort by three government departments - The Department of Health (DH), The Department for Education and Skills (DfES) and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). These departments coordinate their efforts at a national level; a programme board with an Obesity PSA Programme Manager has been developed and is funded by all the departments. The work of the board is monitored at the Cabinet level by the Public Health Sub-Committee chaired by the Deputy Prime Minister.
There are various programmes that have been developed to tackle childhood obesity through physical activity, healthy diet, information, parental guidance with school help and with help from dietician and paediatricians. Some programmes that are have been initiated are the School Sport Strategy (formerly Physical Education, School Sport and Club Links strategy PESSCL) led jointly by the DfES and DCMS, the DfES programme for improving school meals, the combined DH and DfES Healthy Schools Programme, and DCMS programme for children's play. Local Strategic Partnerships (LSPs) have been developed to bring together representatives from health, local government, education, other public sector agencies, the private sector and the voluntary and community sectors. These groups jointly decide the local priorities and coordinate activities. Children's trusts, LSP's, local authorities and other stakeholders have also got together to form the Local Area Agreements (LAAs), which will decide the local processes to tackle childhood obesity.
Effectiveness of Current Policies in Tackling Childhood Obesity
It is encouraging that childhood obesity has been recognised by the government policy makers as a major healthcare issue in UK. The government has (as has been outlined) devised a variety of policies and