Kent medics look to fathers to set healthy eating example

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

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."

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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