Greater co-ordination and joint working is essential to head-off the increasing trend in obesity rates in children, according to Essex County Council’s Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (HOSC).
A sub-group of the HOSC has been looking at ways to encourage children under 11 years old and their families to take greater personal responsibility for their health and wellbeing, including eating nutritious food that is low in sugar, fat and salt and taking plenty of exercise as part of a healthy lifestyle.
The sub-group submitted its final report to the HOSC last week which outlined 21 recommendations. These stress the importance of Essex County Council’s Public Health team in encouraging closer working relationships between Essex County Council, district and borough councils and the community and voluntary sector.
It was also highlighted that stronger links need to be made between different services and more needs to be done to link healthy living programmes within schools to physical and sporting activities promoted by Active Essex.
The report recommends better promotion and targeting of services so that hard to reach families can also receive the encouragement and support that they need to lead healthy lifestyles. Services also need to be targeted on those areas in Essex that have pockets of deprivation, where rates of obesity are higher.
Finally, the report identifies the need for schools to further promote the uptake of infant free school meals as an important part of a young child’s daily nutritional diet, as well as promoting the importance of continuing with school meals into junior and senior schools.
Councillor Margaret Fisher, Lead member of the sub-group looking at obesity said:
“Barely a week goes by without national and local media coverage on the ‘ticking time bomb’ that is obesity. The total cost of obesity to the health system is estimated to be over £5 billion a year.
“With obesity trends still increasing, a co-ordinated all-systems approach needs to be taken to look at a child’s community, home, school and local business environments and embed healthy living in all those domains.
“National evidence suggests it is important to influence lifestyle at an early age as it is difficult to treat obesity once it is established. It is considered highly likely obese children will then become obese adults. More needs to be done to integrate existing and new services to improve their effectiveness and efficiency. We must get a stronger message out there amongst the wider population to change from our sedate way of living and lead healthier and more active lifestyles.”
For more information please visit Obesity Issues in Essex - Summary Report