Parents told to take frontline on child obesity

The government has launched a new initiative to help parents recognise the warning signs of childhood obesity and adopt healthier lifestyles.

Past campaigns on healthy eating have been successful in raising awareness, the government claims, but concedes that many parents have failed to act on them.

The new initiatives, which will target young low income families, aim to give parents the tools and support they need to implement lifestyle changes.

Research published yesterday by the Medical Research Council, Human Nutrition Research Centre and the Department of Health found parents fail to respond to the warning signs of childhood obesity.

Barriers to include; a limited awareness among parents of their child’s weight and the associated health risks; a belief that a healthy lifestyle would be difficult; other pressures on parents that undermine healthy choices; and a lack of opportunity to make the changes towards a better lifestyle.

The Healthy Living Initiative, launched today by health minister Caroline Flint, will rollout a series of projects from now into 2008 aimed at combating these barriers.

Ms Flint said: “Over the next 12 months we will be rolling out a series of other initiatives linking in with partner organisations across the public sector, the food manufacturing and retail sector and with voluntary organisations to support families live a healthy life based on a healthy diet and increased physically activity.

First is Top Tips for Top Mums, promoted by actress Patsy Palmer, which will encourage mums to share tips on including more fruit and vegetables in their children’s diets.

“The Healthy Living Initiative is about providing support when and where it’s required and in a way that people will respond to.”

The Conservatives, however, claimed the government still lacks a joined up strategy on obesity. Shadow health minister Andrew Murrison said past campaigns had not done enough to address the growing health problem or had not responded quickly enough.

“Obesity is mostly caused by poor diet and insufficient exercise. We would like to see the food and fitness industries working together and with government to defuse the obesity time bomb,” he added.