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Children: Obesity

Volume 486: debated on Thursday 15 January 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what plans he has to tackle obesity among children under the age of six years. (247516)

The “Healthy Weight, Healthy Lives” strategy, published in January 2008 set out the Government’s comprehensive plans to reduce obesity—initially focusing on children. Every child should grow up eating well and enjoying being active and we want parents to have the knowledge and confidence to make this happen. There is no single, simple solution to reducing rates of overweight and obesity and therefore Government are taking action on a number of fronts.

The updated Child Health Promotion Programme was published in March 2008 and prioritises obesity prevention and physical activity through positive parenting during pregnancy and the early years of their children’s lives while supporting families facing particular risk factors attributed to causing obesity. We are working to support as many mothers as possible to breastfeed and to continue to breastfeed for longer—helped by schools, children’s centres, health and other services, all promoting healthy weight. The introduction of the Early Years Foundation Stage for 0 to 5-year-olds means that all early years education providers must promote the good health of children, by providing healthy, nutritious food and active play. The Play Strategy, launched in December 2008, sets how Government will invest £235 million over 2008-09 to 2010-11 to develop play facilities for children of all ages.

Once children start school they can benefit from school food which must meet statutory nutritional and nutrient-based standards. Nine out of 10 children aged five to 16 now take part in at least two hours of high quality PE and school sport each week, compared to one in four in 2002. Nearly all schools are currently participating in the National Healthy Schools Programme with over two-thirds with full National Healthy School Status, having demonstrated they have in place the minimum evidence for 41 criteria across four themes: emotional health and well-being; healthy eating; physical activity and personal, social, health and economic education.

The National Child Measurement Programme, which weighs and measures children in reception year and year 6 is now in its fourth year and has a participation rate of 88 per cent. From 2008, primary care trusts can routinely feed back the results to parents. All this is supported by the Change4Life campaign which aims to help families eat well, move more and live longer and which is initially focused on families with young children.