Professor in Global Health in the Department of Social & Policy Sciences, Harry Rutter was a key contributor to the Chief Medical Officer’s Report on Childhood Obesity. The report, published today, argues that children have an underlying right to be healthy, and that having overweight or obesity in childhood has profound impacts on the health and life chances of children.

A right to good health

The report, published on 10 October, says that the government has a responsibility to act. Children's health should be a top government priority in order to improve children's life chances and tackle problems such as the rise of type 2 diabetes. Addressing childhood obesity will also help boost national productivity and support economic growth, according to the report's findings.

According to Professor Dame Sally Davies:

The unavoidable fact is that over time our environment has become very unhealthy without us realising. Our children are impacted as a result and are now suffering from painful, potentially life limiting diseases. I refuse to believe that any adult – parent or otherwise – could argue this is acceptable.

We need to rebalance our environment – our politicians need to be bold and help everyone embrace healthier life choices. No child should suffer from complications caused by an avoidable case of type 2 diabetes, yet this is our new normal. We can fix childhood obesity but we need the right level commitment to make the healthier choice the easy one.

Professor Harry Rutter, a leading global public health expert, contributed to the development of the report. Professor Rutter is an expert in childhood and adult obesity, including the socio-economic factors which underpin it and what can be done to prevent it.

He said:

This important report, based on the best available evidence, makes it overwhelmingly clear that childhood obesity is a problem that is fundamentally driven by the increasingly unhealthy environments in which we all live. Improving the health of our children, now and into the future, requires bold and extensive action to improve these environments. If we continue to tinker at the margins of the problem we will continue to let our children down - we need instead to take on board all of Dame Sally’s recommendations in order to change the systems, structures and environments that place ever greater obstacles in the way of healthy eating and physical activity.

The British Medical Journal has today published an opinion piece by Professor Rutter in which he discusses what challenges remain to tackling the problem of childhood obesity by 2030. According to Professor Rutter, this includes tackling the marketing of unhealthy products to children, creating safe and appealing environments to promote regular physical activity, and providing greater support for those children who already have obesity.