Kent medics look to fathers to set healthy eating example

Obese child Health professionals believe children manage their weight better if fathers lead the way

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Health professionals in Kent are to target men and boys in a bid to improve the county's childhood obesity problem.

Public health consultant Dr Marion Gibbon says existing weight-management campaigns are failing to reach enough of the people who need them.

And she says fathers may hold the key to improving the county's record.

The prevalence of reception-age (4 to 5-year-old) children in Medway and West Kent who are considered overweight is well above the national average.

And in Dartford, Swanley and Gravesham more than one in five 10-year-olds is considered obese, prompting a focus on pre-school-age children.

Cookery for all

Dr Gibbon said men were less likely than women to take up courses run throughout the county, leading to a consequent rise in the number of males who are overweight.

And she told health practitioners in the county: "The evidence suggests that results improve when a father is the leading support for children in weight-management programmes."

OBESITY PREVALENCE IN KENT 2011/12

  • England: Reception - 9.5% Year 6 - 19.2%
  • South East: Reception - 8.1% Year 6 - 16.7%
  • Medway - 9.6% Year 6 - 20.2%
  • More than 20% of Year 6 children in Dartford, Gravesham and Swanley are obese

Source: Health and Social Care Information Centre

Dr Gibbon said the programmes worked but were "not reaching" enough overweight and obese children.

Health professionals also believe there is a case for including cookery skills in their weight-management programmes.

Moya White, senior dietician for the Dartford, Gravesham and Swanley area, said: "It has got to be quick, easy recipes. Often people think it's difficult.

"I think every child in school should be doing cooking and learning healthy eating."

Ms White revealed: "The obesity is already there in Dartford, Gravesham and Swanley before the children start school. So in reception [classes] they are already obese.

"So we need to tackle these kids at an even lower age, before they go to school."

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