Britain’s parents will be accused this week of “killing their children with kindness”, as the government embarks on a new campaign aimed at the growing and deadly problem of childhood obesity
Graphic examples of children dying early from diabetes, heart disease and cancer will be publicised and the Department of Health will reveal “shocking” levels of ignorance and complacency among parents who are failing to accept responsibility for their children’s health.
The campaign will be based on an unpublished DoH report, seen by the Observer, that has been sent to senior NHS managers. It says that three million families with young children need to be better informed to prevent their children becoming dangerously overweight.
In a section entitled “Killing with kindness”, it says: “It’s hard to say no to your kids, but if you give in every time you’re not being kind, you’re killing with kindness. Kids who eat the wrong sorts of food and sit around all day are more likely to get heart disease, cancer, diabetes and to die young. Some will die younger than their parents.”
Beside a photograph of three young children, it adds: “One of us will die of heart disease or diabetes when we’re older because of the foods our parents let us eat now.”
The document, a briefing on the government’s Healthy Weight, Healthy Lives strategy, details how parents are helping to establish bad habits in their offspring.
“Parents do not value physical activity or accept responsibility for children’s activity levels. Parents believe their children are already sufficiently active at school. Sedentary activity (TV watching and computer gaming) is encouraged by parents. Parents believe it is too unsafe to play outside. Mums lack the confidence to take part in physical activity with their children.”
Obesity experts last night endorsed the DoH’s uncompromising assessment of parents. Jack Winkler, professor of nutrition policy at London Metropolitan University, said: “The government is right to point up this uncomfortable truth. Almost a quarter of kids are already overweight by the time they arrive at primary school, which is the parents’ responsibility. So we need to do something about parents, too.”
Tam Fry, of the Childhood Growth Foundation, which monitors’ children’s weight, said: “We’re really concerned that parents are using sweets, chocolates and fizzy drinks to reward their children. Those less than healthy foods are the last rewards they should turn to, because they are storing up problems for their children’s future health.”
The document classes 1.6 million families with children aged between two and 11 as “high risk”. It states: “Food has become an expression of love in ‘at risk’ families. Parents are prioritising filling up their kids over feeding them the right foods. Snacking has become a way of life.”