Health has seldom made the London Mayoral election campaign agenda, says MEND.
The ongoing London Mayoral election campaign has been dominated by the economy, transport and policing. Health has seldom made the agenda. Understandable as that may be, we should remember that the new Mayor of London will also be appointed chair of the London Health Improvement Board, tasked with developing and implementing an approach to health improvement across the city. The Board is currently waiting in the wings in shadow form until 2013 when it will receive statutory powers and a budget, top-sliced from the public health budgets of London's local authorities. Thus far it has committed to focussing on alcohol, early diagnosis and screening of cancers, and childhood obesity.
The inclusion of childhood obesity in this plan is a welcome and much needed move. Prevalence of childhood obesity is higher in London than in any other part of the UK. 240,000 children in the capital are obese, and a further 160,000 are overweight. That's an obesity rate of one in five. What is more, health inequalities are particularly stark across London. The Marmot Review found a man in Kensington and Chelsea can expect to live to 88 years while in nearby Tottenham Green male life expectancy is only 71 years.
As a result, we call upon the new Mayor to:
- Embrace your role as Chair of the London Health Improvement Board and champion efforts to tackle childhood obesity. Despite the global nature of the problem, no major city to date has succeeded in developing a strategy for effectively tackling childhood obesity. London and its new Mayor have an opportunity to be world leaders.
- Safeguard weight management programmes in London. MEND has been working with local partners in London for several years and has seen how effective these partnerships can be in empowering families to improve their lifestyles and their health. But there is much work still to be done. Particularly throughout the disruption of the NHS transition, it is crucial that the Mayor ensures London's families continue to have access to the services they need.
- Leverage public health investment from the private sector. The mayor is in a unique position to work with both the private and public sectors to tackle childhood obesity, encouraging business to step up and take responsibility for the health of the communities in which they operate.
Whichever candidate London chooses as its next Mayor will have a significant challenge ahead of them in tackling childhood obesity. MEND looks forward to working with them to achieve this together.