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Children: Health

Volume 457: debated on Tuesday 6 March 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps her Department is taking to encourage authorities to work with families to ensure children adopt healthy lifestyles from an early age. (124698)

The Department, working with the Department for Education and Skills, is committed to supporting families to help children establish healthy lifestyles. Some examples are as follows.

Sure Start children's centres have been established where parents, parents to be and children under five years old can receive services and advice on healthy eating, play and activity. The revised Children's Centre Practice Guidance, issued in November last year, now has a dedicated chapter on obesity, for example.

The Healthy Schools Programme creates a healthy environment for children by encouraging schools to promote good health across their activities and across the whole school community.

Healthy lifestyles are also integrated within the new Early Years Foundation Stage Framework, which will come into play in 2008 and sets the curriculum and standards for all early years settings.

Families can also access the ‘Your Weight Your Health’ leaflet available on the Department's website, which suggests ways in which people can change their lifestyles by eating more healthily and being physically active.

The Department has also used social marketing techniques to gain a better understanding of the drivers and motivations of families towards healthier lifestyles. This work has influenced a number of new campaigns, the first of which, an initiative to tackle the four key barriers to children eating fruit and vegetables, will be launched in the spring of 2007.

The early years lifecheck (ELC) is a tool, which will support families to identify the help and support that they need to ensure that their child achieves the healthiest outcome possible. It builds upon the emphasis in ‘Choosing Health’ and ‘Our Health, Our Care, Our Say’ in enabling people to take responsibility for their own health.

The ELC will support the aims set out in the national service framework for children, young people and maternity services and the Every Child Matters programme, to ensure that there is better and earlier identification of children's needs.

The ELC will help to reduce health inequalities. Initial development and evaluation of the Life Check service is focusing on areas with the worst health and deprivation.

The Healthy Start scheme was implemented across Great Britain in November 2006. The aim of the scheme is to support certain low income families in establishing a healthy diet. It provides vouchers that can be used to purchase fresh fruit and vegetables, milk and infant formula milk. The scheme also provides free Healthy Start vitamins for children up to their fourth birthday. All Healthy Start application forms are required to be signed by a health professional. This provides an opportunity for information to be provided to the family on breastfeeding, healthy eating, smoking cessation and other healthy lifestyle issues.