New investment to tackle obesity

A MAJOR project to tackle Suffolk's health problems - including obesity and smoking levels - will receive a multi-million pound boost in the New Year.

Anthony Bond

A MAJOR project to tackle Suffolk's health problems - including obesity and smoking levels - will receive a multi-million pound boost in the New Year.

NHS Suffolk will invest �4.5m over the next three years to help target those people most at risk and reduce the life-expectancy disadvantage across the county.

Special courses for overweight children are also being extended across the county, it emerged yesterday. Nearly a third of Suffolk children are classed as overweight or obese.

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Last night Lynda Bradford, senior health improvement manager for NHS Suffolk, said the �4.5m project would involve new health trainers working in the community. Although there are already four health trainers in the county, this will be expanded.

She said: “The most important thing about this is that it is a prevention service. It is aimed to prevent ill health later in life. It also has a role about encouraging people to manage their illness for themselves.

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“We have acknowledged, as have other parts of the country, that there are a lot of people who will live a lot less time than other people. Quite a lot of that life expectancy disadvantage can be managed by encouraging people to access services.

“The people that are the main characters in that are health trainers. They will go out and actively work with people in the community and attend health events and maybe have appointments with people in general practices.”

In the New Year, the health authority is inviting a tender to deliver the multi-million pound investment.

There was a further announcement yesterday that a course aimed at helping overweight children to improve their fitness and overall health will be rolled out across the county.

Statistics show that nearly a third of children in Suffolk are overweight or obese.

Ipswich Hospital is working in partnership with NHS Suffolk to run new courses in Debenham, Haverhill, Great Cornard, Ipswich and Kesgrave.

Children are invited to take part in two-hour sessions, twice a week for 10 weeks. The programme will help them improve their eating and exercise habits, improve fitness, physical activity levels, nutrition and self-esteem.

Linda Paterson, MEND (Mind, Exercise, Nutrition… Do it!) programme manager at Ipswich Hospital, said: “The MEND Programme can really change families' lives. We offer a friendly relaxed atmosphere to encourage children to give new things a go and show parents how they can be supportive and involve the whole family in making healthier choices and following an active lifestyle. Children get healthier and fitter and their self esteem and confidence really get a boost.”

The courses will run from January to March 2010 at Debenham CEVC High School, Haverhill's Abbeycroft Leisure and Wells Hall Primary School in Great Cornard. It will also run from April to June next year at Westbourne Sports College in Ipswich and Kesgrave High School.

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