Nino Severino column: We are losing the battle against child obesity – we need to all act now!
In this week’s column, Nino Severino talks of his concern over child obesity in this country and how, through the programme he and Elena Baltacha developed, he knows things can change
I’m going to start my column this week, with the final words I wrote last week, “through personal tragedy, loss and blackness we have found positivity and light”, these positive feelings fuel my motivation and focus to do my bit in the war against child obesity.
This week we have had warnings from the chief executive of Public Health England (PHE), Duncan Selbie, who said, “Britain needs to go on a diet”, he is fundamentally right, maybe the choice of words were not perfect, as this seems to only imply that a reduction of calories is needed.
I believe, it is a total cultural change that is needed, not simply ‘going on a diet’.
The message is focused around children reducing calories, because they simply do not need to consume so many, because they are not expending enough energy through exercising and playing sport.
The culture we need to develop for our children, and this may sound obvious, is healthy levels of exercise and sport, supported by enough calories, through predominantly healthy meals to support this level of activity.
This is a cultural social change, not simply eating less food because children are getting fat. Children can eat lots of food, eating lots of food is not the issue, its eating lots of unhealthy food, combined with a sedentary lifestyle that is the issue here!
I think I must make this clear, when will the individuals who have the power, wake up, and confront this massive problem head on.
Presently we are losing the battle against child obesity, and the current strategies are simply not getting the job done!
I’m not saying I have the answer, but I do have the motivation, will, and drive to do as much as I can, with the resources available to me. I no longer have my wife next to me, fighting this battle, but what I do have, are the memories and feelings of the spirit we both generated together every morning we woke up.
To live with Elena, was an incredible experience, she made me feel that anything was possible, you just needed to want it enough.
As I said, I am not saying I have the answer, because simply, I do not have the power or resources, but, through the programme Elena and I developed, I do believe, combined with passion and commitment, we can recruit more soldiers to this battle.
I started this week by travelling north to Yorkshire to spend a day with some of our coaches.
I see them as the soldiers who are willing to fight against this awful trend of child obesity and all that it is currently doing, but worst, what it has the potential to do to our children in the future.
Our coaches use puppets to deliver the very important life messages to the young children, and characters to make the lifestyle influences fun and interesting, and programmes such as the Sports Leaders Awards that helps develop the ten and 11-year-old students with the right culture.
These Sports Leaders are then encouraged to go on and be a part of the positive influencing process that effects the other children in their school.
Many of the coaches we are developing across the UK, now in England, Scotland and Wales are mothers, such as Anna and Diane, who are fully focused on our cause, and want to commit to pro-actively making a difference to children’s lives, through sport, exercise and nutritional education and delivery.
We need to make sure that the pupils are enjoying our message and want to get involved, but its vitally important we also reach out to the parents, who ultimately, will be the strongest influences on the lifestyle cultural change affecting the children and their health.
During my visit to Yorkshire, we had a fantastic day and we had the opportunity to present and work with nearly 300 children from the ages of four to 11 years old.
I witnessed for myself, young children, that were showing levels of obesity, that quite frankly was very worrying.
As part of the PHE’s message, they would like restaurants, retailers and manufacturers to change the way their business effects young children by 2024, my response to this, is, by 2024, we will be burying many more children who will pay the ultimate price for being obese.
I encourage our coaches to adopt Elena’s spirit, anything is possible, and to act now, not by 2024, when it will be too late for so many of our young children!