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Children: Obesity

Volume 487: debated on Wednesday 28 January 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what initiatives the Government has introduced for children of pre-school age to reduce childhood obesity in (a) England, (b) the North East, (c) Tees Valley and (d) Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland. (249829)

The Healthy Weight, Healthy Lives strategy, published in January 2008, set out the Government’s 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 the Government are taking action on a number of fronts.

At a national level, the Government are promoting healthy eating and physical activity. The updated Child Health Promotion Programme was published in March 2008. It prioritises obesity prevention and physical activity by promoting positive parenting during pregnancy and the early years of children’s lives. We are working to support as many mothers as possible to breast feed and to continue to breast feed for longer—helped by children’s centres, health and other services, all promoting healthy weight. The Healthy Start initiative provides free vitamin supplements, vouchers for milk, fruit and vegetables for low income pregnant women and children up to age four.

The introduction of the Early Years Foundation Stage for 0 to five-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 out how Government will invest £235 million over 2008-09 to 2010-11 to develop play facilities for children of all ages. Ofcom have introduced restrictions on advertising foods that are high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) to children.

At a local level, primary care trusts, working with local authorities, are responsible for co-ordinating work to tackle childhood obesity. PCT plans, developed alongside local authority Children and Young People’s Plans, will feed into local area agreements agreed with the Government offices. Local areas will develop and implement their own initiatives based on local needs and circumstances. 130 LAs have chosen to include in their local area agreement at least one child obesity indicator from the National Indicator Set.

Middlesbrough is also one of the nine towns that have been awarded healthy town status as part of the Governments £30 million Healthy Community Challenge Fund. The money will be used to build on existing work and test out ideas on what further action needs to happen to make physical activity and healthy food choices easier for people.

All this is supported by the Change4Life movement at a national and local level which aims to help families eat well, move more and live longer and which is initially focused on families with young children. Change4Life is working with a range of commercial and voluntary sector partners, signing up to play their part and deliver concrete commitments to change both nationally and locally.