To tackle childhood obesity we must all be concerned, but also take action

by Alison Oliver, Chief Executive, Youth Sport Trust

To tackle childhood obesity we must all be concerned, but also take actionThe latest NHS health survey, published last week, paints another very bleak picture of childhood obesity in England and it seems appropriate to reflect on some of the key hurdles to overcoming this seismic challenge.

The survey makes for all too familiar reading. It found that childhood obesity remains worryingly high. In 2015, 28% of children were either overweight (14%) or obese (14%). Whilst this is down from the previous year, there is clearly an urgent need to work with schools, parents and young people to really tackle the barriers that are preventing children from leading healthy and physically active lives.

The Government released their childhood obesity plan earlier this year, which announced further investment into PE and school sport through the introduction of the sugar tax.  However, the overall reaction to their plan showed this to be an extremely complex issue with many different facets contributing to the current picture..  At the Youth Sport Trust we believe that encouraging regular physical activity is crucial to reducing obesity levels, as developing enthusiasm and enjoyment in being active from a young age will help ensure young people grow up with an appreciation of the health, wellbeing and academic benefits.

We have campaigned for many years to ensure children have a right to physical literacy through high quality physical education and sport in schools to become confident, healthy movers who have developed a habit of physical activity for life.  We have also been at the forefront of developing healthy schools where physical activity is fundamental to school culture, impacting positively on children’s wellbeing and achievement.

Never has it been more important to address this decline in physical and emotional wellbeing of children and particularly the high obesity rates we are seeing.

Rather worryingly, the latest NHS health survey also found that nine in 10 mothers and eight in 10 fathers of an overweight child described them as being about the right weight, and excluding school-based activities, 22% of children aged five to 15 met the physical activity guidelines of being at least moderately active for at least 60 minutes every day.

Whilst the work of the Youth Sport Trust focuses on supporting schools and young people, we are acutely aware that the challenge to tackle obesity extends well beyond the school gates.

The NHS findings support our own focus and emerging priorities, in reviewing our five-year strategic plan earlier this year, we set out how we are keen to extend our work into the home setting,supporting parents, carers and families to understand how to stay healthy and be active together.

The battle to reduce childhood obesity and sedentary lifestyles must be fought on all fronts. It requires a joined up approach by all those who have a responsibility for the development of young people and the Youth Sport Trust is determined to play a lead role in building a brighter future.

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