Doctors across Pennine Lancashire (East Lancashire and Blackburn with Darwen) are today celebrating Government plans to reduce childhood obesity.
The childhood obesity plan will encourage the food and drink industry to cut the amount of sugar in food and drinks while investing millions of pounds into school sport.
Government figures indicate that nearly a third of children aged two to 15 are overweight or obese. Obesity at such an early age means that it is much more likely that people will have ill health later on in life such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke in adulthood.
Dr David White, the Burnley GP Clinical lead for NHS East Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “Being overweight has become the norm. With around 3 in 10 children overweight, it’s difficult for parents to see whether their child is unhealthy or not, as they will compare them to other children.”
Extreme images of overweight children in the media may also be a factor, as Dr White continues: “Often, a story about obesity is accompanied with a picture of a very obese child. Parents seeing those images will think ‘my child’s not that big’.”
Dr White believes that our love of ready meals and takeaways play their part too: “We have so many takeaways in East Lancashire, and for many families where the parents work, ready meals are a regular feature in a child’s weekly diet.”
The plan also wants every primary school pupil to get at least an hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity a day with at least 30 minutes to be delivered in school which could be through active break times, PE and extra-curricular clubs with the remaining 30 minutes supported by parents and carers outside of school time.
Adopting simple lifestyle changes from an early age can help prevent obesity in adulthood. Dr Malcolm Ridgway, Director of Quality, Performance and Primary care for NHS Blackburn with CCG, said: “Children nowadays tend to sit in front of the TV and computer rather than play outside. So by simply getting off them up and about skipping, or running around is a great way to get children up and active.
“A good diet from an early age can also help reduce the risk of obesity. By cutting back on fat, eating me sized meals and swapping sugary snacks and drinks for ones that are lower in sugar, children have a better chance of fighting fat.”
The childhood obesity plan can be viewed by visiting: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/childhood-obesity-a-plan-for-action