1. ITV Report

Council fights obesity

Obesity is being tackled. Photo: Reuters

The recent start of the new school year was greeted with national reports of a dramatic rise in demand for extra large uniforms but in Harrow primary schoolchildren are leaner and fitter than ever.

Childhood obesity has fallen dramatically in primary schools since Harrow Council, in partnership with Harrow NHS, introduced a healthy eating programme to its 16 children's centres in 2008.

Eatwell has reduced the number of children categorised as suffering from obesity from 10.6 per cent from 2009 to 2010 to seven per cent in 2010 to 2011, latest figures published by NHS Northwest London reveal.

Waist sizes in the borough are markedly smaller than the London average - with 11 per cent of the capital's children suffering from obesity compared to a national average of nine per cent.

The programme has encouraged increased physical activity plus hints and tips for families on how they can eat more healthily. Nutrition drop-in sessions have taken place on a monthly basis to address different nutritional themes - like fussy eating and making sure children get their five portions of fruit each day.

Harrow Council Cabinet Member for Children's Services, Cllr Mitzi Green, said:

The health and well-being of all children in Harrow is a key priority for the council and as we all know, childhood is the time when eating habits and food preferences are formed.

The programme was put together following consultations with all 16 council managed children's centres. The discussions were used to find out what needs and lack of knowledge exist around nutrition. Harrow Council's research emphasises the need to target the whole family which encourages parents to be positive role models.

Parents are given the opportunity to speak to a nutritionist on a weekly basis on a one-to-one level to discuss nutrition and exercise. As part of the healthy living programme parents and children centre staff are invited to attend exercise sessions. The sessions provide parents with the opportunity to practice what they preach and there are weigh-in sessions on a weekly basis to monitor weight loss.

Cook and eat groups have been running at a range of children's centres to help parents prepare nutritious meals for the whole family. Healthy eating workshops are also available at children's centres where parents and their children can both attend.

For more information on choosing a healthy diet go to the Eat Well website and for tips on how to cope with childhood obesity visit the Weight Loss Resources website.

There is also help with spotting the signs of childhood obesity here.