£3.6 million to tackle childhood obesity

On Wednesday, the cabinet approved £450,000 of funding per year to fund a healthier lifestyles programme for children and young people aged 4 to 18 (and up to 25 for those with special educational needs and disabilities). The programme will run from April 2023 for a minimum of five years, with the option to extend it for another three years.

Childhood obesity is a serious threat to the health, wellbeing and life chances of children and young people. Without intervention, childhood obesity tends to carry on into adulthood and can cause serious health complications like heart disease and diabetes.

Levels of childhood obesity were a concern before the covid pandemic, but data from the 2021 National Childhood Measurement Programme shows that childhood obesity increased at an unprecedented level during this time. Rates of obesity in Reception aged children grew by 4.4 percent to 13.5 percent; and in Year 6 children grew by 2.9 percent to 21.1 percent.

Families across Gloucestershire will have access to a range of healthy lifestyle information and guidance, including a dedicated website. A more intensive family-based programme will also provide targeted help for approximately 500 families a year who are most at risk from obesity, with tailored face-to-face support that addresses food, physical activity and behaviour change strategies.

The healthier lifestyles programme will work in partnership with local communities, recognising and building upon the existing activities that support residents to live well, such as cooking and growing projects, physical activities, peer support, and opportunities to connect with others.

Cllr Nick Housden, cabinet member for public health and communities at Gloucestershire County Council, said, “Reducing obesity and encouraging healthier eating and physical activity are key priorities for us. There is a strong link between obesity in children and deprivation, as well as higher rates in children from certain ethnic minority groups, and those with long-term conditions, mental health problems, or disabilities. We are committed to tackling the inequalities that affect the health and wellbeing of these young people.”

A pilot service has been running since January 2020 in Gloucester and the Forest of Dean to understand family and community strengths, and what the potential barriers are to people making changes to their behaviour, such as poor mental wellbeing, financial challenges, lack of time and energy, and difficulties accessing, planning and preparing affordable healthy food.

It has received national recognition as one of the first of its kind and resulted in the council being selected to be part of NHS England and NHS Improvement’s Children and Young People Transformation Programme (2021-24) as an ‘Integration Test Site’ for childhood obesity.

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