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Health chief: St Helens needs 'cultural change' to tackle obesity
PARENTS and schools must share responsibility for improving diets and exercise if significant improvements are to be made tackling childhood obesity, says St Helens director of public health.
Liz Gaulton spoke out as figures revealed the number of 10 to 11-year-olds classed as obese is above the national average.
She suggested health leaders have had success reducing weight problems in children entering school at five.
However, a “cultural change” is needed to stop the problem of youngsters gaining weight over the next five years, which results in one fifth being obese by the age of 10.
In an interview with the Star, Mrs Gaulton said: “When children start to go to school they begin to make choices about what they eat and what they are exposed to when they are at the supermarket with their parents, also by what they see advertised on TV.
“Obesity is not just about what you eat, it’s about physical activity as well. The Smart Restart Campaign is about asking parents how their children get to school; do they have to use the car, could they walk instead?
“We have lost our way with family walks and trips to the park.
“Is there too much dependence from parents and children on social media? Also video games and TV. Everyone is happy to be in the house, rather than being out and about.”
She said the responsibility to maintain the health of children must be shared.
She said: “Parents have an obvious responsibility to ensure their children are active and providing them with the healthiest food available to them.
“Schools have a responsibility in terms of their after-school activities and to provide healthy meals.
“A lot is down to the media and advertising, especially during children’s programmes and early evening TV.
“Children are encouraged in some cases subliminally to eat unhealthily.”
As part of the National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) the height and weight of reception class pupils are measured to ensure St Helens Council has accurate data.
Figures show the number of regarded as obese is eight per cent, compared to 9.5 per cent nationally.
However in year six 19.7 per cent of St Helens pupils are deemed obese, compared to 19.2 per cent in England.
“We have had really good success with reception aged children, reducing levels of obesity, so at the time when children enter school, obesity levels in St Helens now are just lower than the England average – so there’s something about families, nurseries and children’s centres getting it right.
“In year six, children’s obesity is coming down, but it is still higher than the England average.”
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