Child obesity czar role questioned

Birmingham has appointed the UK's first obesity czar to tackle child weight problems in the city.

Birmingham City Council and PCTs have appointed an obesity czar to tackle the childhood obesity problem in the city. The role's £45,000 salary is being funded by the local Health and Wellbeing partnership.

Dr Patrick Lowe was appointed three months ago to work out how obesity can be tackled in the young. An estimated one child in 10 in the area is obese when they start school.

'My primary responsibility is to produce a pan-Birmingham strategy that will be the basis of all the agencies in Birmingham whose work impacts on childhood obesity,' said Dr Lowe.

The role, which will initially run for 12 months, was created by Birmingham's task force for children and young people's nutrition and health, which has been running since October 2005.

It includes professionals from transport and leisure industries, as well as clinicians.

So far, Dr Lowe has been examining initiatives taking place across the city to see which are effective. His central role is as a filtering tool to assess the priorities of different groups.

'The model is very much one the central government needs to follow,' said Dr Lowe. 'You have three government departments, but we haven't got a named individual whose main responsibility is obesity.'

Dr David Haslam, clinical director of the National Obesity Forum (NOF) and a GP in Hertfordshire, did not support the Birmingham approach.

'It's just another layer of bureaucracy thrown in,' he said.

'We need implementation rather than people put into position to say again what we have heard before. Putting a czar in place isn't a cost-effective thing to do. The quick fix and the most important target is the quality framework,' he added.

'From the moment it gets put into the quality framework, obesity management will improve.'

Currently, the quality framework awards eight points for producing a register of over-16s with a BMI of 30 or more.

But the NOF wants a register for children also to be included.

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