Children and their parents are caught up in a world of confusing mixed messages, and it could be catastrophic for their health, according to Chris Ruane.
The Labour MP for the Vale of Clwyd founded the APPG on Heart Disease ten years ago after encountering the work of the British Heart Foundation.
His APPG has joined forces with those on Stroke, Kidney and Diabetes, and the Cardio and Vascular Coalition (CVC), a leading group of 40 voluntary organisations including the BHF, Diabetes UK, and Stroke Association, to raise the need for Government action to tackle Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) - still the single biggest killer in the UK.
The Government announced that it would be producing a new Cardiovascular Disease Outcomes strategy later this year.
The APPGs have produced a joint report designed to feed into the strategy and address the key priorities.
Mr Ruane says “It is a complex area, but it is clear that there needs to be more joined up policy making from the Government.”
“My own personal perspective is there are issues here for the individual and family and a lot of pressures on people these days,” explains Mr Ruane.
“Advertisers are telling young kids 'be size zero', and then others say 'munch on a McDonalds' - this is having an effect on eating and purchasing patterns.”
He says food labelling, advertising, salts, fats and transfats are all part of this “complex issue”.
“On the one side you have the producers who want to make a successful product, but sometimes that has long term effects. 19% of children in England are obese at the age of 10-11.”
The joint APPG report calls for “further consideration to public health regulatory measures such as restrictions on the marketing of high fat, sugar and salt foods to children and the introduction of plain packaging for tobacco products”.
Mr Ruane says while progress has been made tackling cardiovascular diseases, more needs to be done.
“I set up the All-Party Parliamentary Heart Group ten years ago,” he explains.
“At the time the BHF were running a national campaign on the importance of genetics on heart disease.
“Everyone knew about diet and smoking but not about the propensity of individuals to get heart disease and the likelihood of getting heart disease if a relative from your extended family had a heart attack below the age of 65.
“They came to my local hospital as part of a national tour and I ended up talking with a young professor. He mentioned there was no All-Party Parliamentary Heart Group.
“Over the past 10 years we have aimed to strengthen the voice of heart needs within government, both the Labour Government and this coalition Government.”
Mr Ruane praises the successes of the last decade.
“There has been a 45% drop in deaths from heart disease – that is not just down to the use of statins but making small changes in many areas. Now we need a long-term plan and designing and implementing the new outcomes strategy should be a cross-government responsibility.”
The report calls on local authorities to offer health checks to those at high risk as a priority, and for clinical networks to be given a key role in implementing the strategy.
Mr Ruane says the APPGs' decision to take oral evidence for their report from not just experts but “the survivors and relatives of patients who have gone on to be campaigners” was very useful when it came to drafting the report.
“One elderly woman who was a stroke survivor asked how we fund care in the long term - we want innovative ways from people at the sharp end and not just leave it to MPs and experts. It is a model to be copied by other organisations.”
As well as a Government strategy, there needs to be national, regional and local plans.
“They need to be woven in with social services youth engagement and education and mental health,” explains Mr Ruane.
“The CVC is the perfect vehicle for taking this forward. They are a powerful voice and if they use their volunteers and paid staff in a coordinated way then I think further progress will be made.
“As chair of the APPG Heart Group I want to thank the BHF for making me aware of the importance of heart disease 10 years ago and giving the support to the APPG to make it a powerful force in Parliament.”