A new project has had a huge impact in tackling obesity in South East England according to initial research.
Livewell Child is a joint initiative between Braintree District Council and Essex County Council which launched in 2016. It is a three year pilot project and the objective is to support families live healthier and become more active.
Data revealed that there was a significant increase in the proportion of children who are overweight during primary school age so the project invited all Braintree District schools to take part in the pilot. Ten schools signed up to become livewell child schools and data now reveals that the proportion of overweight children attending these schools has reduced since the project launched.
Nationally there is a rising trend in children being overweight and very overweight which is measured by the National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP). It is a Government initiative which measures the weight of children in reception class and in Year 6.
Across the country 1 in 5 children start school being overweight but that figure rises to 1 in 3 when they leave school in year 6. As part of the livewell child project children in all year groups were measured so the team could ascertain when that rise in weight occurs.
Across the Braintree district, excluding all 10 livewell child schools, there has been a rise in the percentage of year 6 children that are overweight from 2016/17 to 2017/18 of 1.3%. This is also the case for year 6 children across Essex and the UK, with increases of 0.6% and 0.1% respectively. However, this trend is not seen in the livewell child schools where there is a decrease in the percentage of year 6 children that are overweight from 2016/17 to 2017/18 of 1.2%.
The NCMP data also reveals that the percentage of children in nine out of the 10 schools who started reception class in 2016 as overweight and very overweight has either stayed the same or reduced in the last year.
Cabinet Member for Health & Communities, Councillor Peter Tattersley said:
Supporting children and families with their health is one of our key priorities. I am pleased to hear that the livewell child project is making a positive difference to the children and we will continue to establish relationships with schools, parents and local businesses. Working together we can create environments to support healthy living.
Cabinet Member for Health and Adult Social Care at Essex County Council, Councillor John Spence said:
It is my ambition, shared by partners across the county through our Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategy, that we dramatically reduce the number of people of all ages who are overweight or not physically active. We know this will have significant life-long impacts on physical and mental wellbeing, such as dramatically reducing the risk of diabetes, and help people live independently for longer into old age. This pilot very clearly demonstrates that this ambition is achievable and is the first step on the way to healthier, happier lives for Essex children.
A survey to all parents has revealed that since livewell child has been launched their children have increased their physical activity outside of school and are eating a healthier diet.
Hear from Anita Dawson, Healthy Schools Co-ordinator at Lyons Hall School, on why her school is working with livewell child.
Photo: Candice Robinson