Four in five parents take responsibility for fight against childhood obesity

Article date: 26 November 2004

British parents admit responsibility lies withthem to tackle childhood obesity, a new report reveals today.

More than 80% of parents say that they intend tobe more accountable for their child’s weight and four in fivebelieve that measures set out in the Government’s White Paperlast week would go a long way to help them combat obesity in theirchildren.

But consumer research commissioned by NorwichUnion Healthcare, also reveals that more than half (55 per cent) ofparents don’t believe that the food industry will take onboard the measures suggested by the Government and develop a clearfood labelling system that the public will understand.

The Health of the Nation Index, a panel of 250GPs from across the UK, reveals GP support for food labellinginitiatives – more than half (56 per cent) believe trafficlight labelling would have a significant long term influence on ouroverall health.

And 89% of GPs would support a ban on advertsfor unhealthy foods during children’s primetime televisionhours.

Dr Doug Wright, clinical development manager atNorwich Union Healthcare adds: "Parents and GPs are togethersending out a clear message – we all need to be a lot moreresponsible for our own health as well as that of our children. Oursocial behaviour is having a damaging affect on our health andbecoming an extra burden for doctors to deal with. Availability ofeasy to understand information about our food would help us controlour diet"

Dr Ann Robinson, one of the GPs who took part inthe Health of the Nation Index research says: "Tackling childhoodobesity is a social problem really. School meals remain anutritional disgrace in many areas while increased funding forsports hasn’t filtered down to the majority of our childrenyet who still spend far too long slumped on sofas in front of thetelly.

"We’re failing our children by lettingthem get progressively fatter, less active and more prone todiseases like diabetes. Getting doctors to pick up the pieces isnot a solution."

The findings are part of Norwich UnionHealthcare’s fourth ‘Health of the Nation Index’,which looks at GPs’ views of the health service. The Indexalso reveals:

  • Its not just children who are giving us cause for concern. Itappears that the rise in cases of childhood obesity iscontributing to the number of adults presenting with diabetes
  • Doctors believe the twin danger of diabetes and obesity to bethe most pressing concerns for those on the frontline of ourhealthcare system

  • Eight in ten of the GP panel, interviewed by independentmedical research specialist Dr Foster for Norwich UnionHealthcare, have reported an increase over the past 12 months inthe number of adult patients reporting with diabetes
  • Conditions such as alcoholism and drug addiction, sexuallytransmitted diseases and stress have increasingly been seen in theGP surgery over the past year:
  • 41% of doctors reported an increase in sexually transmitteddiseases

  • 78% of GPs have seen a rise in patients suffering from stress

  • 54% of doctors have seen an increase in alcoholism and drugaddiction
  • GPs believe there should be a wider range of IVF optionsavailable to couples– six in ten doctors said they’dsupport the provision of free IVF treatment on the NHS

  • More than half of doctors believe that 24-hour alcohollicensing will cause a long term increase in levels of alcoholism

  • And nearly three quarters think it will not reduce the levelof alcohol related violence

  • If appropriate systems were in place, 64% of GPs would welcomethe issuing of the contraceptive pill ‘over thecounter’ to women.

Roger Taylor, research director at Dr Foster,said: "GPs realise that obesity is too big a problem for doctors todeal with on their own. Parents, schools and government regulatorsall have an important role to play in fighting this epidemic."

Full details of the ‘Health of the NationIndex’ report can be accessed at


Media contacts:
Karen Tait orCharlotte Ruddlesdin, QBO Bell Pottinger on 020 7861 2424

Norwich Union Press Officecontacts:
Lorna Wiltshire: 01904 723 251 or 07788 471849
James Evans: 01904 452 791 or 07800 699 525

Notes to editors:

  • Norwich Union Healthcare commissioned Dr Foster to conductresearch amongst 250 practicing General Practitioners fromacross the UK during July and August 2004.
  • Norwich Union Healthcare commissioned TNS to carry out researchamongst a representative sample of 319 parents across the UKduring October 2004.

About Norwich Union Healthcare

  • Norwich Union Healthcare was founded in 1990 as the healthcarearm of Norwich Union and now provides a range of incomeprotection and private medical insurance products that coverover 750,000 lives. It is one of the largest providers of incomeprotection and private medical insurance in the UK.
  • Norwich Union Healthcare is a member of the General InsuranceStandards Council, the Association of British Insurers and theFinancial Ombudsman Service.
  • Norwich Union’s news releases and a selection of imagesare available from Aviva’s internet press centre
  • An ISDN facility is available for studio quality broadcast. Callthe press office on 01904 723 236.
  • Dr Foster is the leading independent authority onhealthcare quality in the UK. It publishes information which isaccessible to the general public and provides informationanalysis to the professional healthcare community.
  • An independent Ethics Committee with substantial powers toenforce editorial and research integrity oversees theorganisation.
  • Further information is available at

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