Islington Council is confident obesity in children in Year 6 will keep decreasing in the coming years.
This positive attitude came after The National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) revealed in its latest release that in Islington, the percentage of obesity in Year 6 children dropped to 21.8% for the year 2012-2013. In the previous year, it elevated to 22.1%.
The NCMP is charged to weigh and measure children in reception (aged 4 and 5) and Year 6 classes (aged 10 to 11).
It’s the first time that obesity in Year 6 children in Islington has decreased since 2006.
For the council, introducing healthy eating habits in primary schools through The Best Start in Life for Children programme, is the outcome of such positive results.
“We are very pleased that obesity has reduced in year 6,” said Janet Burgess, Deputy Leader of the Council and Executive member for Health and Wellbeing. “We put this down to a concerted effort to introduce healthy eating into our primary schools: for five years we have given free school meals to all primary school children, regardless of whether they qualify for them or not.”
Islington council has been running The Best Start in Life for Children programme since 2011. Its aim is to provide support, good schooling and educative activities to children.
Councillor Burgess explained: “The Best Start in Life for Children is the top priority for our Health and Wellbeing Board and its constituent members of the Council and the Clinical Commissioning Group, so we are introducing healthy eating into all our children’s centres etc.”
In addition, many schools are starting breakfast clubs so that children are able to get something to eat at the beginning of the school day.
The Council also runs a summer course for secondary school children who are overweight.
“I can’t stress how important it is for children to have good, healthy meals. When they eat well, they behave better, they are also more receptive to what we tell them and they have more energy,” said Linda Gims, 60, an ex school teacher.
For Catherine Law,59, a professor from UCL Institute of Children Health, children environments push them in the direction of eating too much and exercising too little.
However, as it has been proved in Islington, there are still ways to prevent obesity in children.
“The best way is to change the system around children rather than to change their behavior. An environment, where children can exercise more should be put in place. And they [children], shouldn’t be pressurised in different ways to eat more,” said Professor Law.
Among London boroughs, Newham topped the list with 27.3% and Kingston upon Thames had the lowest percentage, 17%.
Obesity, especially in children has always been linked to poverty.
Yet, in the borough of Westminster, one of the richest in London, 25.30% of children in Year 6 are suffering from obesity; they have been having trouble with child obesity for the past few years.