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PHE chief criticised for withholding obesity evidence


20 October 2015

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Duncan Selbie, the chief executive of Public Health England (PHE) was criticised by the Health Select Committee for withholding the evidence found from the childhood obesity strategy, which was given to government on 9 October.

Selbie did not want to disclose the evidence or the report, as he had promised Jeremy Hunt, secretary of state for health, that the government would have time to reach agreement on it first, he stated yesterday in Westminster hall.

Duncan Selbie, the chief executive of Public Health England (PHE) was criticised by the Health Select Committee for withholding the evidence found from the childhood obesity strategy, which was given to government on 9 October.

Selbie did not want to disclose the evidence or the report, as he had promised Jeremy Hunt, secretary of state for health, that the government would have time to reach agreement on it first, he stated yesterday in Westminster hall.

He said that “The government are asking for sufficient time to have the discussions within and across government” in order to “land agreement” and pledged that “everybody will get to see everything”.

Selbie did not reveal the date of publication for the obesity strategy, which is currently due to be released by the end of the year, but he said that the secretary of state told him "we'll keep the publication date under review."

However, by holding back the evidence from the committee, public and wider health community who,  committee chair Sarah Wollaston said that this meant there “won’t be time to criticise/feedback on the strategy… isn’t it patronising to do so?” while Selbie insisted it was not his intention to patronise.

In terms of the content of the strategy, Selbie told the committee “there are eight themes to the evidence review, in which we’ve giving advice to the government,” and mentioned four of them: portion control, advertising, price promotion and fiscal measures (e.g. a sugar tax).

The chef and campaigner Jamie Oliver, who was also a witness, said that despite the rumours surrounding the sugar tax “the discussions that I’ve had haven’t implied that this is written off.”

Public Health England’s evidence and advice to the government on the childhood obesity strategy was delivered to the secretary of state fully peer-reviewed on 9 October.

Selbie added that: “The timing of this is regrettable and I’m very sorry that I can’t give you everything that you are asking for… you’ll be able to judge me in time, please don’t judge me today.”

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