Doctors call for diet advice for parents

Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh says universal nutritional education for parents across UK would help bring down child obesity

Friday 10th May 2019

A leading medical college is calling on the UK Government and its devolved counterparts to work together to provide ‘universal nutritional education’ for parents, to help tackle childhood obesity.

Statistics show just in one in 20 children who are obese when they are five will return to a healthy weight by the time they turn 11.

Professor Derek Bell of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh says ‘transformational societal change’ involving the public, government and health workers is needed to fight obesity and diabetes.

Education on healthy diet and the importance of exercise should be made available should be available at ‘every opportunity’ from antenatal classes to secondary school, regardless of socio-economic status, claims the college.

In particular, the doctors’ professional body is calling on policymakers to emulate a scheme in Leeds that saw child obesity fall by 6.4% in recent years, a situation almost unique in the UK.

The West Yorkshire city’s HENRY programme ran eight-week family programmes for newborns and their parents, educating them about healthy eating and giving them advice on parenting.

Professor Bell added: It’s clear that by providing the right training for early-years workers, and the right information for families, real progress can be made on tackling obesity over time. This type of programme could be investigated and hopefully introduced nationally, or indeed locally through local authorities.

As well as backing similar schemes ‘right across the UK’, the Edinburgh college wants investment in projects to encourage exercise such as the daily mile and subsidised gym access.

Professor Bell explained: “We’re calling for governments in all four corners of the UK to seriously investigate educational health programmes such as HENRY, which appears to have been a roaring success in Leeds so far.

“But obesity is a problem which must be tackled through a multi-agency approach. We won’t make the progress we need unless policy makers, healthcare workers, schools and the public all play their part in tackling obesity. And we can only get to grips with obesity and diabetes in the UK, if we get the balance right between food education and exercise.”