One in five children in London is obese, which could end up costing London £111m a year in healthcare, reveals ‘Tipping the Scales’, a London Assembly Health and Public Services Committee Report on childhood obesity.
The report has been welcomed by Sustrans, and supports the need for a more coordinated, London-wide approach to public health and to obesity. As such, mayoral strategies on topics like health and transport need to be closely linked rather than written and delivered in isolation.
Eleanor Besley, Policy Advisor at Sustrans, said: “Obesity is extremely complex and we cannot solve the problems without looking across all parts of children’s lifestyles. Making walking and cycling easier for children and young people will be a key part of a broad approach to tackling obesity in the Capital, which should be given sufficient priority through the provision of a ring-fenced funding pot.
“By improving walking and cycling routes to play spaces, reducing the impact of traffic in residential areas and supporting children to make daily journeys on foot or bike, transport strategies can play a central role in helping children to become more physically active and lowering obesity rates’
Transport for London has been funding the Bike It project in London since 2006. Bike It was originally funded by the bicycle industry levy fund, Bike Hub. Now with multiple resource streams, Bike It currently reaches almost 37,000 pupils at 123 schools in London by helping them to overcome the barriers to walking and cycling. Last year the number of children cycling to school every day doubled in Bike It schools.
Besley said: “Bike it directly increases physical activity among children so it’s an intervention that straddles transport and health strategies. But the delivery of Bike It varies greatly across London. It needs to be prioritised as part of a more joined-up approach to the problem.”