Obesity crisis: Health chiefs plead with parents over sugar intake

Obese child.
Obese child.

PARENTS in Hartlepool are being urged to cut back on their child’s sugar intake to reduce the risk of obesity.

National Child Measurement Programme figures show that 36 per cent of the region’s children in their last year of primary school are already overweight or obese.

A Change4Life campaign launched today by Public Health England (PHE) encourages parents to cut down the amount of sugar their children consume by making one or more simple swaps to their diets.

Dr Roberta Marshall, director of PHE’s North East Centre, said: “This campaign is 
about taking small steps to 
address this.

“We know from past campaigns that making simple swaps works and makes a real difference. This year we wanted to be even more single-minded in our approach, which is why we are focusing on sugar alone.

“The family challenge highlights that simple swaps could lead to big changes if sustained over time and we’d urge North East parents to try one more simple swap in January and beyond.”

The campaign recommends four simple sugar swaps.

This includes the breakfast swap - change sugary cereal for plain cereal. The drink swap – have sugar free on non-added sugar beverages. The after school swap – snack on a fruit teacake instead of a muffin and the pudding swap – enjoy a low-fat yoghurt instead of ice cream.

The town’s Health and Wellbeing Committee met at Hartlepool Civic Centre in October to discuss the issue.

In the meeting chaired by council leader, Coun Christoper Akers-Belcher, who is also chairman of the Health and Wellbeing Committee, it was agreed to start work on a campaign ahead of a conference which is scheduled to take place next month to discuss the issue at length.

Louisa Ells, a specialist adviser to Public Health England who is based at Teesside University, told the committee that childhood obesity needs to be tackled from birth rather than waiting until school years.

She said: “The figures show that this is clearly a significant public health challenge and it is a priority area for us.

“Issues surrounding overweight and obesity costs the NHS around £5bn a year. Figures from 2011 show that the North-East has the greatest number of obesity prescription items.

“We need to adopt a family-based approach. It is about lifestyle, and if mum or dad has weight problems then it is more than likely that the child will.”

Louise Wallace, the council’s director of public health, added: “We can see from the data that 10 per cent of reception children are deemed as overweight or obese.

“At the end of the primary years, that figures rises to 
24 per cent so we can 
see what is happening is quite significant.”