Sweet up­shots of the Sugar Tax

The Peterborough Evening Telegraph - - Westminsterlife -

This week the par­ties in the House of Com­mons are wran­gling over the NHS, mainly about money and the need to tackle the big chal­lenges of fund­ing so­cial care in an­tic­i­pa­tion of ma­jor de­mo­graphic changes. That said, sat­is­fac­tion with the de­liv­ery of lo­cal health ser­vices has risen in the last six years.

How­ever, we too of­ten over­look the need to fo­cus on long term preven­ta­tive work to keep peo­ple healthy for longer so that they need to rely less on their lo­cal NHS – or in­deed to grow up fit­ter and re­main healthy!

The big­gest of these is­sues is surely obe­sity?

And as such on Wed­nes­day, we held an im­por­tant de­bate in Par­lia­ment on the best ways to spend the mon- ies that will be raised by the forth­com­ing Soft Drinks In­dus­try Levy, bet­ter known as the Sugar Tax, on sport in schools. Last year the Govern­ment an­nounced that, by 2018, soft drinks pro­duc­ers will have to re­duce the level of ar­ti­fi­cial sugars in their drinks or face hav­ing to pay a tax to­wards to the public health costs. The move fol­lowed ev­i­dence that obe­sity & con­nected health con­di­tions af­fect 1 in 3 young peo­ple, and cost the NHS around £6bn a year. Specif­i­cally, I am seek­ing an­swers from Min­is­ters as to how many lo­cal pri­mary school kids in Peter­bor­ough are over­weight or clin­i­cally obese.

There is a cross party con­sen­sus that the funds raised from the levy should be used to im­prove sport in schools, but also to fos­ter a long-term, sus­tain­able strat­egy for sports and recre­ation af­ter school and dur­ing halfterm breaks and, cru­cially, to open-up school fa­cil­i­ties to com­mu­nity groups free of charge be­tween 4pm and 6pm.

Some lo­cal af­ter school ac­tiv­ity clubs across the UK have al­ready caught on and the clubs are hugely pop­u­lar and reg­u­larly at­tract hun­dreds of young peo­ple. As part of the plan for util­is­ing the £520m raised from the tax, more money needs to be made avail­able to “pump prime” new projects in cities like Peter­bor­ough, with young and grow­ing pop­u­la­tions and where child­hood obe­sity is an in­creas­ing in­ci­dence and prob­lem.

Tack­ling child­hood obe­sity and en­sur­ing that young peo­ple have a healthy and ac­tive life­style is vi­tal to devel­op­ment and at­tain­ment. By re­duc­ing sugar con­sump­tion and us­ing funds raised for a ded­i­ca­tion ex­pan­sion of school sport, the Govern­ment will be act­ing to safe­guard our chil­dren. Peter­bor­ough could do with more af­ter-school and holiday sport camps of­fer­ing young peo­ple the op­por­tu­nity to try some­thing new and ex­er­cise in an en­joy­able way.

I be­lieve that the monies from the Sugar Tax will boost ac­cess to these ac­tiv­i­ties across the coun­try, and the Govern­ment needs to look fur­ther into how we let com­mu­nity groups ac­cess school sport fa­cil­i­ties for free be­tween 4pm and 6pm to run these groups.

Of course, par­ents and chil­dren need to make good choices on ex­er­cise and nu­tri­tion and take per­sonal re­spon­si­bil­ity for their health but start­ing early to be proac­tive means that the obe­sity epi­demic can at least be man­aged if not erad­i­cated to­tally.

Peter­bor­ough’s MP writes his reg­u­lar col­umn for the Peter­bor­ough Tele­graph

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