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NHS launches new apps to help tackle obesity

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The rise of the smartphone

Tackling obesity is one of the greatest long-term health challenges in England. Around two-thirds of adults are over a healthy weight. There has been a record rise in child obesity following the start of the pandemic. NHS Digital has published their National Child Measurement Programme for England 2021-22 which shows that 27.7% (around one in four) children of reception school age are overweight or obese.

Obesity is linked to reduced life expectancy and features as a risk factor for a number of chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes, liver and respiratory disease, and at least 12 kinds of cancer, as well as the impact on mental health.

The government acknowledges that it is difficult to lose weight in the face of advertising, special offers and promotions, along with lack of information in restaurants to allow us to make healthier choices.  They’ve therefore created a new campaign and some tools to help people take steps towards a healthier weight – Public Health England’s Better Health Campaign. There’s a free NHS 12-week weight loss plan app.

The government has also launched a new app called the NHS Food Scanner. The aim is the help parents improve their children’s diet, by showing parents which foods can be swapped out from the weekly shop in favour of healthier alternatives, avoiding items high in salt, saturated fat, and sugar. The aim is to reduce the risk of health problems, such as diabetes and tooth decay.

It is anticipated that primary school teachers will also be able to help pupils learn about making healthier food choices using curriculum linked teaching resources – one of which is the app.

The government is advocating ‘front of pack’ nutritional labelling with the information presented in a way that’s helpful and easy to understand, on top of the existing ‘traffic light’ scheme which has been in place for the last seven years.

The government’s target is to halve childhood obesity by 2030 and reduce the number of adults living with obesity.