INFORMATION RESOURCES ON FOOD AND HEALTH
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National policy context
While no specific dietary targets have been set nationally for the whole population, promoting healthier food choices and access to healthy and affordable foods are laid out in ‘Healthy Weight, Healthy Lives’1 as important elements of a local strategy in achieving a reduction in the levels of overweight and obesity within communities. This strategy calls for a combined effort by individuals, the private sector, society and the government in order to achieve their ambitions. The strategy calls for the development of a new ‘Healthy Food Code of Good Practice’ which challenges both food manufacturers and retailers to develop and promote healthier food choices; encouraging local authorities to evaluate local planning guidelines to provide a healthier range of shops within an area; and working with food advertising and marketing bodies to evaluate the promotion of food products to both children and adults.
The 2007 Comprehensive Spending Review identified a Public Service Agreement (PSA) PSA 12: Improve the Health and Wellbeing of Children and Young People, which outlines more specific dietary targets for this age group. Indicators include the ‘prevalence of breastfeeding at 6-8 weeks’ and the ‘take up of school meals’; with targets of annual increases to be achieved in both indicators.
Food Matters - Towards a Strategy for the 21st Century
In July 2008, the Cabinet Office published ‘Food Matters - Towards a Strategy for the 21st Century’ which reviews the main trends and associated problems in relation to food within the UK. It is hoped that this report will help determine objectives for a future food strategy and the measures needed to achieve them.
- Key agreed actions from this report that will be taken forward by the government include:
- Making it easier for consumers to access information on a healthy diet based on safe low-environmental-impact food
- Making further progress with the 5 A DAY campaign to increase average daily consumption of fruit and vegetables, targeting those group where intake remains low such as low-income families
- More nutritious, environmentally sustainable food will be delivered through a new ‘Healthier Food Mark’ linked to standards for food served in the public sector
- Well-functioning, competitive markets should provide fair prices for consumers and a fair deal throughout the supply chain
- Establish and support a Food Strategy Task Force to monitor ongoing developments in the food system and food markets and to drive forward implementation of the measures outlined
The report is intended to complement other national strategies including Healthy Weight, Healthy Lives obesity strategy; Sustainable Farming and Food Strategy and the Food Standards Agency’s Strategic Plan 2007-2010. The report calls for a joined-up approach and commitment is needed from consumers, retailers, manufacturers, local government and public bodies for adequate results to be achieved.
Continuing work is being undertaken by DEFRA, Department of Health and the FSA to develop a more defined strategy and more specific objectives that will outline the priorities outlined in this report. This final report is due for publication in autumn 2009.
‘Choosing a Better Diet: A Food and Health Action Plan’ 2005
On the 9th March 2005 the Department of Health (DH) published a delivery plan for the White Paper: Choosing Health, Making Healthier Choices Easier, published in November 2004. The Choosing a Better Diet: a food and health action plan originates from the Government’s Strategy for Sustainable Farming and Food (SSFF), and is still closely linked with this strategy although it is a major part of the White Paper delivery programme.
The ‘Choosing a Better Diet’ action plan summarises how the nutrition commitments outlined in the ‘Choosing Health’ White Paper will be achieved and details the necessary actions required from a range of organisations to improve nutrition and health in England and to reduce health inequalities. The Government recognises intersectoral collaboration is needed, not only at a national level, but also regionally and locally, if the commitments of the White Paper are to be achieved. The overall aim of ‘Choosing a Better Diet’ is to improve the health in England by reducing the prevalence of diet related disease, and to reduce obesity in England by improving the nutritional balance of the average diet.
Many of the proposals in the plan have now been actioned and up to date information about most of the actions can be found on the relevant websites, links to which are either hyperlinked within the main body of the text or are found beneath each relevant section.
Summary of the ‘Choosing A Better Diet’ Action Plan
The plan will contribute to the targets of the Government’s health improvement Public Service Agreement (PSA), which are to:
- substantially reduce mortality rates by 2010 from heart disease and stroke and related disease by at least 40% in people under 75, with at least a 40% reduction in the inequalities gap between the fifth of areas with the worst health and deprivation indicators and the population as a whole.
- substantially reduce mortality rates by 2010 from cancer by at least 20% in people under 75, with a reduction in the inequalities gap of at least 6% between the fifth of areas with the worst health and deprivation indicators and the population as a whole.
- reduce health inequalities by 10% by 2010 as measured by infant mortality and life expectancy at birth.
- halt the year-on-year rise in obesity among children under 11 by 2010, in the context of a broader strategy to tackle obesity in the population as a whole. This is a joint target with the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).
The plan details action to:
- reduce the intake of fat, saturated fat, salt and sugar and increase the consumption of fruit and vegetables in England.
- reduce rates of obesity, particularly in children, by improving obesity services and increasing physical activity.
- improve the diet through better information, choices and access to food.
- tackle oral health via an Oral Health Action Plan, to be published later in 2005. Alcohol abuse is already being addressed in the Alcohol Harm Reduction Strategy for England.
To achieve the above, the following objectives which reflect the recommendations of the COMA Report on cardiovascular disease in 1994, have been set:
- increase the average consumption of a variety of fruit and vegetables to at least five portions per day (currently 2.8 portions per day).
- increase the average intake of dietary fibre to 18 grams per day (currently 13.8 grams per day).
- reduce the average intake of salt to 6 grams per day by 2010 (currently 9.5 grams per day).
- reduce the average intake of saturated fat to 11% of food energy (currently 13.3%).
- maintain the current trend in the average total intake of fat at 35% of food energy (currently 35.3%); and
- reduce the average intake of added sugar to 11% of food energy (currently 12.7%).
The actions to be taken are outlined for a number of different settings;
1. Healthy eating in a consumer society
This section focuses on promoting healthy eating messages in society, and discusses new campaigns to be launched, such as an obesity education campaign, as well as existing campaigns, for example the 5 A DAY programme that will be extended.
Additional activities include:
- Health Direct – a telephone, internet and digital television service providing information on a healthier lifestyle.
- Social Marketing Strategy – a strategy to be developed by the National Consumer Council (NCC) that will be aimed at promoting and improving health by influencing people’s attitudes to the choices they make.
- Personal health guides – an online practical health assessment accredited by the DH.
- Simplification of food labelling - so a clear labelling system is in place by early 2006 (see FSA ‘traffic light’ food labelling system also see EMPHO pages on ‘Nutritional Guidelines’)
- Advertising and promotion of food to children – to determine ways of reducing childhood obesity
- Work with the food industry – to reduce levels of salt, sugar and fat in prepared and processed food
2. Children and young people
This section outlines the actions to be taken to improve the health of babies, infants, school children and young people.
Early years: Giving babies and infants a healthy start
For this age range the actions to be taken to improve health include:
- Encouraging breast feeding for the first six months of life, especially through National Breastfeeding Awareness Week.
- The replacement of the Welfare Food Scheme with the Healthy Start Scheme allowing eligible pregnant women, mothers and young children in low income families to have greater access to, and encouragement to adopt, a healthy diet.
A direct link to resources available for health professionals about Healthy Start is below:
Development of Sure Start centres by 2010, offering information and guidance on breastfeeding and nutrition (see website below for further information about Sure Start)
Nutrition in Schools
A range of schemes are proposed including:
Food in Schools Programme (FiS) – provides assistance, guidance and training for teachers and schools to implement healthy activities, such as healthy breakfast clubs, tuck shops, cookery clubs and growing clubs
School meals - An independent School Food Trust is also to be set up for independent support and advice to improve school food. Information about new standards for school meals can be found on the School Food Trust website.
Food in the National Curriculum – continuing to teach topics on different foods, a balanced diet, nutrition, safety, hygiene and cooking skills
See below link to the Department of Health online ‘Food in Schools’ Toolkit:
Free food to school children
School Fruit and Vegetable Scheme (SFVS) – continuing the provision of a free piece of fruit or vegetable in each school.
School milk – continuing the availability of EU and national subsidies to nursery and primary schools for school milk.
Free school meals – children of parents who receive qualifying benefits will be entitled to receive free school meals.
Healthy Schools Programme
The National Healthy School Standard is part of the Healthy Schools programme, led by the Department for Education and Skills and the Department of Health. Launched in October 1999, it offers support for local programme coordinators and provides an accreditation process for education and health partnerships. The standard covers eight key themes: healthy eating, personal, social and health education (PSHE), citizenship, drug education (including tobacco and alcohol), emotional health and well-being (including bullying), physical activity, safety, and sex and relationship education.
For more information about the Healthy Schools Programme:
3. Healthy Eating in the Community
This section of the Food and Health Action Plan looks at the opportunities for action in local communities to promote healthy eating. Particular emphasis is placed on Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) and Local Authorities (LAs) to work together through Local Strategic Partnerships. Activities to support healthy eating in the community include:
Encouraging fruit and vegetable consumption – 5 A DAY – continuing to encourage the public to consume more fruit and vegetables. Particular focus will be on groups with a low consumption, including children, young men and those in lower socioeconomic groups
Developing supplier networks – to improve availability and accessibility to fruit and vegetables in the community. Defra will be responsible for continuing to engage various stakeholders in development of supplier networks.
Food vision – launched in 2002, food vision promotes the production of and access to safe, sustainable and nutritious food to improve the health of the local community.
4. A NHS that Promotes Healthy Eating
To achieve significant changes and to help people live healthier lives, the DH plans to have a health and social care system that provides support and advice for physical activity and healthy eating. This will be done by:
Obesity care pathways and services that will:
- co-ordinate activity on obesity prevention and management in each PCT for adults and children by having a range of appropriately trained staff.
- ensure there are clear referral schemes to specialist obesity services.
- have a range of appropriately trained staff able to work in a variety of community settings.
5. Nutrition in the workplace
The workplace provides a good opportunity to promote healthier living and address health inequalities. However, interventions in the workplace need to be further developed and piloted. Current work is underway with Investors in People (IiP) to recognise the advantages of workplaces investing in the health of employees.
In addition, improvements in the catering facilities of the public sector are to be addressed by:
- setting nutritional standards for food supplied by the public sector, including the NHS, armed forces and HM prisons.
- working in partnership with the FSA, Defra, the Food Procurement Implementation Group (FPIG), NHS Estates, National Patient Safety Agency (NPSA), NHS Purchasing and Supply Agency (PASA), MoD, HM Prison Services and supplier representatives of the food industry.
- considering a new ‘Healthy Eating’ award.
- Cross-Government Obesity Unit, DH & DCSF. (2008) Healthy Weight, Healthy Lives: a cross-government strategy for England.
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PAGE CREATED: 1 April 2007 | PAGE REVISED: 29 September 2009