What’s being done about the childhood obesity epidemic in Suffolk?

In Suffolk, one-in-five children aged 4-5 are classed as obese Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

In Suffolk, one-in-five children aged 4-5 are classed as obese Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

As 90% of obese three-year-olds remain so into adolescence, we’re frequently turning to schools and organisations for help to keep the children of Suffolk happy and healthy.

Families need to work together to help provide a healthy lifestyle for children and to combat obesit

Families need to work together to help provide a healthy lifestyle for children and to combat obesity Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

We live in a world where there's a fast food chain on every corner and children would rather be glued to a screen than take a trip to the park.In 2017/8 Suffolk County Council shared that 11.7% of reception children were overweight and 8.8% obese, and 14.3% of year six children were overweight and 17.1% obese. With these stats, it's no wonder more of us are questioning what's being done to make sure our children are growing up fit and healthy.

Stuart Keeble, Suffolk County Council director of public health said: "We know that parents and community partners recognise the importance of eating a balanced diet and being active to maintain a healthy weight, and we understand that this isn't always easy. Tackling obesity cannot be solved by one individual or organisation, but by joining together and working in partnership across Suffolk, we can tackle the various factors contributing to obesity. For children to lead a healthy lifestyle, they need to have support from two main areas: their family and school. We spoke to OneLife Suffolk and Cliff Lane Primary School to find out how they're helping young people lead happy and active lifestyles while encouraging a balanced diet.

Family support

OneLife Suffolk is dedicated to helping children across the country lead healthier lives by offering a range different educational tools in weekly hour-long sessions.

The organisation offers a 10-week community programme that is fun, interactive and appropriate for the whole family. Everyone is welcome, from aunts and uncles to grandparents and stepparents. As many people as possible are encouraged to attend the sessions as they focus on developing the family's knowledge of healthy eating and fitness, which will boost the support available for children, too.

Each week covers on a different topic, for example debunking common food myths, explaining food labels and suggesting smart food swaps, to name a few.

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By working with the whole family OneLife is able to support members who will be direct influences on the children in their household. As family members are often role models, it's incredibly important that children see their family making healthy choices so they follow suit.

Once the 10-week course has been completed, OneLife encourages families to attend the drop-in sessions during the following months. These are available to support families and to ensure they continue the habits they formed over the initial course, and to provide assistance to those struggling.

School support

Cliff Lane Primary School is one of the leading schools in Suffolk focused on creating an environment for its pupils which nurtures a healthy lifestyle. To achieve this, three fundamental components need to be focused on: education, diet and physical activity.

Trust headteacher Rebecca Leek, who is currently the interim headteacher at Cliff Lane says: "For everyone here, it is paramount that we give our students the tools they need to understand how to live a healthy lifestyle. This is mainly covered in our PSHE sessions - which we have recently renamed Me And The World - where we discuss different aspects of a balanced lifestyle to help students make informed and smart decisions."

"We also have 'word of the week' to increase students' vocabulary and understanding, and we sometimes choose words to promote a healthy lifestyle. The word changes throughout the school, for example the younger children have phrases such as 'snack' and older children will have words like 'nourishment'," Rebecca adds.

Most schools now offer meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner, meaning they are under pressure to produce a healthy variety for students. Rebecca says: "Many of our students have more than one meal with us a day. We're therefore very careful to provide meals that contribute to a balanced diet, which our pupils also enjoy. To achieve this, we work closely with the catering company and Cliff Lane Friends and ensure we offer healthy sweet treats, such as fruit and fresh popcorn."

Cliff Lane Primary also excels in sports. It has recently achieved the PE Gold School Games Award and is working ambitiously to achieve the highest stage of Platinum. Rosie Lloyd, PE and health leader at Cliff Lane says: "We are very proud of our achievement, and are careful to encourage both competitive and non-competitive sports, ensuring activities are inclusive of all groups. We also offer two hours of timetabled PE each week and our students compete against each other through intra-school competitions."

Helen-Rose Clarke from OneLife Suffolk shares five top tips to help achieve a healthy lifestyle

1 Get enough sleep: When our bodies are sleep deprived, we're more likely to reach for unhealthy snacks and become dependent on caffeine - that's our body's way of saying it's not okay.

2 Eat more fruit and veg: Natural snacks will aid the digestive system, boost energy levels, and keep you feeling fuller for longer.

3 Start moving: Every movement helps our bodies - we don't need to run a marathon! Whether it's playing outside at lunch or helping tidy up around the house, every little helps.

4 Have fun: Make your healthy lifestyle fun by choosing foods and physical activities that you enjoy.

5 Drink more water: Our bodies are composed of about 60% water, so ditching the sugary drinks can help you feel more energised and stop you from feeling peckish.

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