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Alexa, Do My Homework!

Low Literacy Due To Overuse of Screen Time?...Health Secretary Prescribes An App For That.

The independent reported today that the majority of parents would struggle to help a 7 year old with their homework according to a new study.

The study by Oxford Home Schooling found that only a third of parents felt confident assisting their kids with school projects. The study provided 1000 parents typical year 3 homework and found only 1 in 16 of the participants could answer each of the Maths, English and Science questions correctly.

You can head over to the Independents article to do the test yourself.

The study also determined men are more likely to feel confident helping out with homework. 39 percent of Dads compared to only 28 percent of mums said they were confident to help.

 

 

More than one in 10 parents acknowledged they use Siri or Alexa virtual assistants to help answer homework questions. More than 75% of parents admit to often using the internet to answer homework questions.

“The results of the survey are quite surprising, but they will probably resonate with many parents across the country," said Dr Nick Smith, principal at Oxford Home Schooling.

"For some, a large amount of time will have passed since they themselves were in the education system and so they will be unfamiliar with the current curriculum.

“Our research has found that over a third of primary school parents think their children are stressed because of work, so it is important that they strive to help out where they can, using assistants, like Google, if needed.”

Meanwhile despite televised warnings of kids getting too much screen time the education secretary Damien Hinds believes parents should be getting their kids to use educational apps to reduce the literacy gap between children at school entry age.

He talked in terms of the development gap being a "profound issue" and will let the areas most affected by the readiness variance have free prescriptions to educational apps for kids as young as two years old.

He said the so called sesame street can be harnessed to bridge the skill gap. He also puts the responsibility on distracted parents who are too engaged with their own devices to talk to their kids and help them out.

 



Both these articles are painting a picture of a society which has a two sided relationship with technology. The majority of parents are relying on the internet and devices to help kids do their homework. kids copy what they see at home and in turn spend too much time using devices and doing less and less of more proactive activity’s such as reading and motor skill improving creative play. The kids suffer as a result of their own and their parents overuse of tech whilst the health secretary prescribes more screen time to solve the issue no doubt creating kids who grow up reliant of technology to solve their problems and so a perpetual loop seems impossible to avoid.

 



With Apples steady integration into the school room via digital text books and homework apps, it seems that parents are going to undertaking an uphill struggle to push back against the machines we are increasingly relying on to help us raise our kids.

One way we can make sure our kids are getting some extra exercise is by providing them with standing desks. Schools can trial standing desks on a “try-before-you-buy” basis here. Parents can grab a suitably sized Eiger Standing desk here to encourage more physical literacy at home to make their own stand against the developing screen time addiction crisis turning our kids obese and illiterate.

I Want a Standing Desk Publishes a Fortnightly Blog about health and education. Bookmark us now or follow us on Twitter / Facebook to keep up to speed with our latest.

Further reading: 

5 New Year’s Resolutions for Healthy Kids

Kids Become Less Active Every Year of Primary

Fight The Obesity Crisis With School Wide Change

Full article →

A Shift In Perspective For Your Health

Trick Your Sleepy Brain

Have you ever laid in bed with the unshakeable feeling that you want to go to sleep but just can't slip away into slumber? I know from experience this can drag on for hours. A little shift in perspective can make all the difference. How you look at your given state can help trick your mind into fully relaxing.

 

 

So what’s the shift in perspective here? Well tell yourself that it's morning time. The mind-set you have towards being in bed in the morning for most people is that it’s the comfiest place in the world and you don’t ever want to leave. This is  certainly why it’s so hard to get our engines going in my household every 7am.

So when I find it hard to sleep I tell myself that it’s first thing in the morning and that I don't have to get up. I roll over and I drift away happily under the brief suspended reality I have created for myself.

This is the same suspended reality that can keep Wylie Coyote suspended in mid-air for all those moments before he finally looks down over the cavern he has sped into and plummets.

There’s a power to how we frame things. My children don’t try and eat vegetables they aim to get as many colours on their plate as possible. I don't go on a diet. I adopt a lifestyle change….and when kid’s need a bit of encouragement to move more or eat less how we frame these experiences stands for everything.

Ninja School. 

My 5 year old gets nearly his recommended dose of daily exercise in one after-school class. A class that had they framed it in the traditional way would have no doubt lost his interest months ago like Rugby Tots did after two sessions before it was tears and pleas to go home on a Saturday morning. So every Tuesday instead of attending mixed Martial Arts, we head on over to Ninja School. Not before the boy tells every school friend and their parents on the way out of school that he is on his way to ninja school and that he is a real ninja.

 

 

One ninja t-shirt and the persistent sticking to the Ninja School alibi from every Sensei means that the kids not only all -in emotionally but they get active and even spend the extra five minutes listening to a ninja lesson where they might learn about the benefit of eating their Veg to be fast and powerful ninjas or the importance of respect along with other life lessons. Which of course they listen to because it's from someone other than their parents.

Instead of drifting off mid talk they actively participate. They contribute ideas and they listen. Whilst the mantra they shout every lesson also suggests. They "will do their best!" ...to become better ninjas of course.

Now this is not lying to kids. The instructor’s and savvy parents alike all go with the verbiage and play along to the benefit of their kid’s enthusiasm for that much needed dose of exercise and enrichment. How it's shaped is simply the difference. How the kids perceive the class and themselves within it.

Dancing & The NSPCC Pants Song

Our house includes daily bouts of dancing for fun and exercise. Even our 2 year old demands his favourite songs and shouts the request to our Alexa device which is smart enabled to play any song on demand. One play of the song "Kung Fu Fighting" and both the boys are diving about the kitchen with arms and legs flailing with wild abandon. The same device plays the "Pants Song" when we want to learn about the pants rule.

This is another fine example of how we frame things. We are able to kick start the NSPCC skill on the Alexa device and either work through the pants quiz which lets kids know it’s okay to say No and to respect theirs and other people private parts. The song sings of Pantasaurus who gets his power from wearing pants and how its okay to say no if someone makes you uncomfortable. Whilst this might seem like a world gone mad to some people in reality by framing a very taboo subject in a kid friendly language the removal of stigma means important conversations can be had in our household and important lessons learned from an early age when kids are most vulnerable.

Here is the pants skill if you want to install it on your Alexa or other device and the pants song because it's catchy as hell.



King For A Lesson


Kids at school might need a little encouragement to adopt healthier choices, but as above how we frame these scenarios go a lot towards how children respond to them. Is it cool to sit or to stand? If your participate at school are you a "swot" or a "clever clogs" or perceived as simply "clever" by your peers.

Schools that adopt our standing desks find the children who use them improve their productivity. They participate more, are less disruptive and the quality of their work output improves. Statistically they even score higher on academic tests. Does the standing desk change the child’s perspective in the very moment we want them to be as engaged as possible?

There have been many psychological studies which find that room layouts and chair placements effect people’s behaviour. For instance if you sit in the middle chair of a talking semi-circle you are most likely to adopt the role of leader in the dynamic. Now people are physically looking towards you for leadership but should that mean someone more likely in their personality wouldn't outshine you and step up to the plate. Well the data suggests that you will lead the group. Wall flowers can use this to force themselves to participate.

Studies have shown how important mind-set is to the classroom. A mind-set that one will aim to master a subject is more useful than a natural aptitude to accomplish the same thing. Like my old guitar teacher said. "There are those who can play this naturally and there are those who have to work at it. You will have to work at it." Thanks Shirty. It was hard advice to hear in my teens but completely set me on the correct mind-set to accomplish my goals. He explained in that simple idiom that this wasn't going to come easy. At the age I went to him I wanted everything to come easily and he no doubt had seen it all before.

The correct mind-set to mastery demonstrated perfectly by a man they call "shirty".

So how does the standing desk allow children to shift their perspective in the classroom?


Well the increased blood flow from standing and small movements aids brain function by increasing oxygenation. This can also help with children who suffer ADHD. The elevated position gives children a positive sense of their place in the rooms dynamic resulting in the increased participation. (Not unlike the chair example.)  Engagement increases by approx 16% which is significant for such as small shift.

Let’s not forget that standing makes us feel better than sitting. Kids have a tendency to slouch and disengage in class. This is years of muscle memory, child born laziness passed down from generation to generation. The older kids are in school the less likely they are to be active so getting them standing from primary age is a must to ensure they develop a positive mind-set to the proposition and don't shun it because it appears to take slightly more effort.

 

You can trick kids into eating healthy with fun food ideas


Active kids become active adults. Our children are glued to devices all day and always look for the easiest way to accomplish tasks. The culture in this country amongst younger people is to shirk exercise in way of screen time and couch time. So it's time to get smart and outfox the young guns into adopting better habits.

How can your classroom frame the standing desk to make it desirable? Well most don’t' have to ...flexible seating is a big hit amongst kids generally. If delivered smartly and framed well the kids love the idea of changing it up and there is rarely any push-back but for those schools who need to get smart to encourage take-up. "King for a lesson" seems like a nice way to frame a singular standing desk classroom. Multiple standing desk hot desk classrooms can work in the idea of rotating between desks to include a little more brain stimulating movement into the daily routines.

I don't need to tell you how to suck eggs. Teachers are some of the most creative and encouraging people to walk the earth. Just remember to engage that part of your brain when you start to include standing in your classroom, because the benefits are huge and perspective is everything.

FURTHER READING:
This article demonstrates the importance of mind-set to the classroom.

Full article →

Finland’s Excellent Education Should Be Emulated

Jeremy Corbyn recently called out the Finnish education system as the one we should aim to emulate in this country. Michael Moore produced a documentary detailing the quality of Finland’s education system and media across the world have since been abound with details of the unique Finnish scholastic approach.

With political leaders citing other countries methods as best practise perhaps time to look at what Finland are doing well and see what our schools and educators could borrow from their process.



Finland completely rejuvenated their education system about 40 years ago as an integral element of the country’s economic recovery plan but evidence this was successful didn’t come until the 2000’s when a standardized test given to schools across 40 countries showed that Finnish schools produce the best readers. Three years later tests confirmed they then led in Maths. By 2006 Finland were first in science, third in reading and 6th in maths. It seemed the education revolution in Finland had a real impact.


NO TESTS AND BIG ON EQUALITY
So what do they do differently? Well there are no mandated standardised tests in Finland until the end of students last year of senior school. Pupils are not ranked, don’t compete within the school or across regions. So ‘teaching to the test’ is an outdated principle in Finland.

Instead equality is the buzzword integral to the culture of the countries education system. So much so that the gap between the lowest performing pupil and the highest is the smallest in the world.

“Equality is the most important word in Finnish education. All political parties on the right and left agree on this,” said Olli Luukkainen, president of Finland’s powerful teachers union.



Despite Finland spending 30% less than the USA on each student a striking 93% of their students go on to graduate. That’s 17.5% more than the US. Facts such as these are why other countries are looking at Finland’s methods and asking themselves “how can we do better?”

“We prepare children to learn… how to learn, not how to take a test,”
Pasi Sahlberg - Finland’s Ministry of Education and Culture

PLAY IS INTEGRAL. SCHOOL STARTS LATER.
So what else is different? Well schools allows 15 minutes of free playtime up to four times a day. The kids are getting fresh air and exercise both of which proactively benefits them when they hit the books. Now whilst Finland might not test these children studies have shown that 15 minutes exercise has a positive effect on kid’s ability to learn and study resulting in higher test scores for active pupils who exercise in or before class.


In Finland kids spend far more time playing outside and aren’t rushed into the education system. Compulsory schooling only starts at age 7.

 


WHATEVER IT TAKES
There is a widespread cultural phenomenon throughout Finland’s education system and it is one of doing “whatever it takes” to get a child to where they need to be academically.


This might be a headmaster taking a child under their wing as a personal mentee to letting them express themselves with how they dress or flex their wiggles by letting them get outside more. This approach is more easily demonstrated by the fact that Finish schools have dedicated SEN teams available to each class ensuring that each child benefits from their education equally.

Teachers in Finland are highly educated and require a masters degree (5-7 years in the making) in order to be qualified to teach. They are then given a great deal of autonomy in the process and are respected within their communities far more than in other countries.

With the commitment of so many years under their belts and the regard for their profession being highly placed they are also far more likely to view teaching as a lifelong career which bodes well in terms of retaining the highly educated better qualified staff for longer.



Can UK schools adopt a more Finnish approach right now?
Well by taking a leaf from the Finnish schools habit of encouraging physical literacy in the school day. Whilst we know that schools are in no position to suddenly introduce 15 minutes of play before every lesson however hundreds have already started to include standing desks to allow children some physical freedom in the classroom.


Schools can trial the Eiger Student Standing Desks by completed a short form here. 


Standing whilst you work can have the same effect of improved engagement, academic performance, personal well-being and good mental health. By letting kids stand and move more whilst they work schools are reportedly reaping the benefits similar to the schools whose children are allowed additional playtime and outdoor exercise.

LITTLE TO NO HOMEWORK / THE INNER MOTIVATOR
So what else separates Finland’s process from our own?
Well Children are given little to no homework but most importantly kids are encouraged to tap into their inner motivation. Teachers and school systems focus on working out psychologically how best to stimulate a child’s own inner motivation. Teaching them not to work to tests well but instead how to think analytically.

 


Goals are set but by the kids themselves. They are asked to identify their own goals and these might be yearly or weekly but the emphasis is on the child taking ownership of their own journey.


This seems to go hand in hand with the desire to teach them not to perform for others but for themselves. A key component of the system which seems integral to its success. In short they introduce a joy of learning by taking away the side British children, bemoan. Tests, homework, few breaks…working to satisfy someone else’s standards.

The overarching educational reform Finland dared to implement has turned them into a world leader of education. They seemingly afford their teachers and pupils far more respect than we do nationally and importantly both now outperform us. So if you’re a teacher or headmaster and you think you can take a leaf out of the Finish playbook. Then don’t wait for national reform.

As Ghandi was apparently mis-quoted as saying. “Be the change you want to see in the world.” And implement some positive class or school wide changes in your institution. Show other schools, your pupils and communities that you are prepared to improve and change for the better. Positive change is contagious. It simply has to start somewhere.

Full article →

Bakeoff Judge: "Bad Mums Give Kids Junkfood"

or..."Bake-off Judge Takes A Break from Peddling Cakes on the Idiot Box to Say Bad Mums Fill Lunchboxes with 'Junk'"

Prue Leith, a judge from the Great British Bake-off TV show said home packed lunch boxes should be banned after detailing how she believes 'most mums' fill them with Junk food.

 

 

She argued that the habit of putting a treat in the lunchbox everyday should be curtailed and treats should not be a daily occurrence for kids. She believes the daily treat habit had directly contributed to the ongoing and very real obesity crisis the country’s young people are enduring right now.

Leith when speaking to Ben Shepard and Susanna Reid on Good Morning Britain said unfortunately a sandwich and a piece of fruit isn’t the average daily lunchbox and that schools should be

"Using lunch times to teach kids about healthy eating."

One comment on twitter agreed some stricter rules for parents might be a good idea but a country wide ban on lunchboxes made by parents is "ridiculous" another comment seemed pretty grounded in the real world read;

 

 

“Prue, who’s paying for these school dinners once you ban packed lunches? I couldn’t afford it for my children so packed lunches are our option. Ok for all you rich folk.”

As a parent who deals with packing multiple school lunches through the week I can say with absolute certainty that whilst there may be some parents who 'phone-it-in' that creating packed lunches with variability and healthy contents is a task on top of a million others that a reality TV judge has no place weighing in on. The obesity crisis is an issue however putting the fix firmly in the hands of the parents and not the corporations preying on children’s via online influencers and kid friendly mascots or fun house fast food environments is misdirected culpability.

Yes schools should educate children about healthy eating, I wonder if Leith knows that 2020's curriculum changes have been designed to do exactly that? Yes kids shouldn't necessarily have the added calories of a treat a day however the calorie issue could be being tackled not by depriving children of a simple snack based treat with their school lunches but by a cultural shift away from sedentary behaviour and towards creating active kids who would still have a calorie deficit even with a snack in their daily diets if their physical activity levels were anything like the recommended daily hour medical experts suggest they should be undertaking.

 

 

There is a certain irony of someone whose TV show illustrates high sugar food in the form of cakes spouting off about kid’s school dinners. Someone whose income is based off people couch potation in front of the TV engaging her content. A certain irony to the format she chooses to reel this information off i.e. once again whilst being on TV ...one of the big contributors to sedentary behaviour since we invented the settee.

How about we ban Televisions. Or cakes? The benefits would be huge compared to snack management in children’s school dinners. How about we include a standing desk in every classroom or better yet one for each child? The idea that this is on the parents or another responsibility to add to the schools to do list alongside delivering a new national curriculum, and educating children on the ever growing debacle that is understanding modern day sexual diversity. I believe schools probably have enough to do keeping up with the times and the majority of parents are overwhelmed enough already.

 

 

Changes need to be long-term, passive and easily maintained and remarks suggesting bad mums give kids snacks or schools need to add to their over exhausted workload are remiss  when Leith operates in a predatory industry peddling sugar for a living.

But hey! maybe parents should take some note from this and maybe tone down the sugary snacks and drinks because yes in actual fact despite me playing devil’s advocate parents absolutely are involved in shaping their children’s attitudes towards sugary and fatty foods and in this day and age when every Instagrammer or big time YouTuber has your child’s ears we are all up against it anyway.

 

 

So dig deep and 'lest you be judged' by Leith perhaps help your child understand why they might start making healthy choices for themselves and maybe you can become the biggest influencer in their upbringing once again. Like the good old days before you needed a social account to be relevant to your kids. 

 

Further reading:

5 New Year’s Resolutions for Healthy Kids (Spoiler: Stand More)

Report On Childhood Obesity

Teach Kids To Cook

Full article →

5 New Year’s Resolutions for Healthy Kids

With Christmas day just behind us it's time to start looking forward to the New Year and those inevitable news year’s resolutions and start looking at your family's future with 2020 vision. 

Typically new year resolutions don't last much longer than about 8 weeks if your pretty dedicated but experts recommend making changes which aren’t so dramatic but several small effective changes are great so that you can stick to them throughout the year. 


Now we'll all sit there with bloated bellies after indulging a little too much and conspire to attend the gym, change our eating habits and start googling the latest trendy diet which cuts out ketones or carbohydrates but very few of us are sparing a thought for our children. The gleeful recipients of a multitude of selection boxes, mince pies and Christmas puddings. The influx of devices as Xmas presents also push back against any notion of any movement or outdoor activity getting a look in.

One thing which never changes over the years is that kids also over indulge at Christmas and if we don't allow them to its easy feel like monsters. So let’s be fair and say that chocolate and sweets have probably been on the menu over December but it's time to think of our children’s waistlines, minds and body health when we consider how to plan news year resolutions that include our kids.

It's proven that healthy children go on to become healthier adults with fewer health related conditions, have better activity habits and live longer lives. So getting into the habit of planning some yearlong changes to improve health could be a good ritual to introduce your kids to so long as you all work together to ensure these changes can stick for more than a few weeks into January.

So here's 5 healthy kids New Year resolution suggestions for your little ones to combat the Christmas time crash. To shake off the screen time sedentary creep and get back into good habits. Parents and schools can work together this year to ensure kids learn to think for themselves and put their own health first.

1. Healthy Colourful School Dinners

80% of kids don't eat enough vegetables. So introduce an idea that you and your offspring can get into. Eat at least three or four colours on your plate every lunch time. This means that even if you’re brood regularly dine on kid’s favourite chicken nuggets and chips they might be tempted to also opt for some greens or sweetcorn, peppers or another colourful vegetable substitute.

This year we wrote about an excellent campaign called Veg Power which encourages kids to "eat them to defeat them" and take down the evil vegetable horde by crunching through them one by one. This campaign is inspired and schools can even encourage uptake by requesting poster and sticker packs here.



2. The Daily Mile

The daily miles was conceived to ensure every child has the chance to include activity and physical movement in their day and to encourage healthy daily habits no matter the child’s socio-economic background. Statistically more effluent families have better access to healthy physical activities, go out more and eat healthier. No surprise really when you consider how much more expensive it is to eat healthily these days. Well one headteacher came up with an idea which has spread across the country. 

The daily mile encourages kids and teachers to fun for 15 minutes each school day before class. This not only encourages children to be aware and responsible for their own health but its inclusive and yields positive academic results.

 


Exercise before lessons improves test results, increases student participation and benefits the overall student experience by affecting the class morale and mood in a positive way. Students feel better and become better learners. Ask your school if they have considered participating in the daily mile in 2020. Your kids can join the 2.3 million other pupils now running a mile a day and you can see your child’s school doing their bit to ensure our kids grow up happy and healthy.

3. Standing Desks for Kids

Introducing your kids to standing desks in 2020 represents one of those changes that could well last the year. Children take to lifestyle changes such as introducing standing to their workstations exceptionally well. It’s inspiring to see how well students and kids at home take to the introduction of standing in their daily routine. Sedentary behaviour is a learnt behaviour. I’m reminded of an anecdote I heard this of one parent asking another parent how they 'got their kids to read' the lady on the subway was reading a book at the time and her child was quietly doing to the same. She replied. "It seems to me that kids don't like to do what you tell them to. However they do what you show them."

This is true for physical activity and standing. Kids whose parents stand whilst they work like to join in and work just like their parents and they find the whole transition a whole lot easier the earlier we introduce it. Reports from schools that introduce standing desks are entirely positive. Read some here. 

You can help your child’s school to take up standing desks in the classroom by signposting them to this free try before you buy trial of the Eiger Standing Desk or for your child at home you can pick up a desk from our range right here.

4. Read Together.

The above anecdote aside. Not only will your kids read more if they see you doing but one of the traits of successful parents is reading with their children. New York State University School of Medicine found that babies whose parents read to them develop better literacy, language and reading skills much earlier.

"We compared children from the same social backgrounds who achieved similar tested abilities at ages five and 10, and discovered that those who frequently read books at age 10 and more than once a week when they were 16 had higher test results than those who read less, In other words, reading for pleasure was linked to greater intellectual progress, in vocabulary, spelling, and mathematics."

- Dr. Alice Sullivan

Reading with your children will pass on a love of books which will not only improve their academic outlook but give them an interest that can only benefit them in later life. Good mental health is essential for good overall health.  So show your kids how to love books and you'll be giving them a gift that will last a lifetime. Visiting a library with your kids will encourage them to read more. 

5. Device Free Zoning 

Research shows that the blue light from the devices you and your children have glued to your face all day including before bed can inhibit the production of the chemical the body needs to induce sleep.

Not only this but an abundance of screen time is linked to reduced motor skills, attention deficit and a host of other health problems stemming from the sedentary nature of screen time. So be it your kitchen at dinner times (A good idea is to spend more time around the family dinner table together so this is a good shout) or the family room or even one of their own bedrooms, but whichever you or your kids pick. Make them involved in the decision and make sure the rule sticks.


So we not suggesting you turn into a strict and unrelenting parent for 2020 but the careful introduction of some of these ideas might just allow you to push back against the poor habits we all slip into over the festive season and get your kids thinking for themselves and adopting healthier choices when a little encouragement and a framework delivered by your conscientious parenting and modelling.

FURTHER INFO

Veg Power write up on iwantastandingdesk.com 

The literacy trust has a campaign to let you buy other kids books.  

383,775 children in the UK don’t have a single book of their own. You can donate by text here is how.

Full article →

Study Shows Our Kids Will Be Sick Longer In Late Life

New data shows children born today will spend more time in ill health when they are older than our generation. Meanwhile new data from the office of national statistics has also shown that 65 and overs are seeing their life expectancy increase. Men aged 65 are averaging an increase in life expectancy of 32 weeks whilst women can expect to live an extra 20 weeks approximately.

The study found that Richmond-upon-Thames men can expect to live to just shy of 72 years whilst Blackpool men have a healthy life expectancy of only 53 years.

For women in Nottingham a 'healthy life expectancy' is only 54 years but by contrast a baby girl in Wokingham can expect to live to 72. A significant disparity of 18 years.


source: Guardian


Before 2012 large life expectancy gains year after year were expected now those gains are decreasing massively. Today’s children can expect to live 5 years less than their parents. This is a dramatic decline in health due to prevailing failing support for the health of young people and an increase in cancer causing sedentary lifestyles and screen time addiction.

 



What can schools do to help encourage their pupil’s to live healthy lifestyles? Well aside from delivering health education the schools can ensure than they provide opportunity for pupils to learn in active classrooms. This means the provision of flexible seating options, standing desks for kids and help kids reach the advised daily targets of 60 Mins exercise a day to help them stay healthy.

Schools doing this are already reaping the benefit as they report that pupil engagement increases, test results improve and general class atmosphere benefits when standing desks are introduced.

Schools wishing to try out standing desks the classrooms for themselves can try before you buy by filling in this form.

There are options such as the daily mile, BBC super-movers and marathon kids which encourage pupils to move regularly and integrate physical literacy into their daily rituals.

Lets work together to push back against the decline of out nations health. Surely we owe it to the next generation to make changes now before they spend more and more of their adult life suffering from ill-health and shorter lives.

 

Further reading:

Meet the school putting mental health first.

Kids become less active every year of primary school.

Full article →

Sugar Free Schools & Smoking Doctors

This week sees several interesting news items surrounding kid’s health making the headlines. So rather than pick one out to write about we decided to bring you a news week breakdown focusing on kid’s health and education. So let’s get into it. 

Dentists Call For Sugar Free Schools.
This week saw Dentists asking schools in England to go sugar-free after the launch of a new report which indicates the leading reason children are admitted into hospital between the age of five and nine is for tooth decay. The faculty of dental surgery has suggested supervised tooth brushing in schools. (These actually occur in Scotland and Wales already.)


They have put forward several suggested action points to combat the issues of tooth early onset tooth decay.

- Schools should become sugar free.
- Price increase sugary dairy drinks such as milkshakes.
- Reduce the amount of adverts for sugary food and drink.
- Lower the sugar content of baby food.

"It is incredibly worrying that levels of tooth decay among children in England remain so high. Everyone needs to play their part in ensuring our children have healthy, happy teeth." - Professor Michael Escudier, Dean of the Faculty of Dental Surgery

Source.


New Tool for Assessing Screen Time Addiction


A peer reviewed journal, Cyberpsychology, Behaviour, and Social Networking found that more than 12% of kids aged nine to twelve are at risk of becoming addicted to digital devices.

The system for assessment borrows diagnostic criteria from the Digital Addiction Scale for Children (DASC) and measures the impact of screen time on the family unit, the likelihood the child is to lie about their use and the likelihood that problems arise from overuse such as sleep deprivation, academic slipping and more.

The addiction criteria were: preoccupation, tolerance, withdrawal, mood modification, conflict, and relapse. Now this might not seem like a huge news item but we live in an age where screen time is having direct consequences on how children’s brains are structured. A study released in November shows that more screen time means lower structural integrity of white matter tracts in parts of the brain responsible for language, literacy and emotional regulation.

Young people are now being diagnosed with a recognised disorder of gaming addiction because they legitimately experience symptoms of withdrawal and are controlled by their desire to play. No surprise when you consider how gaming companies now employ addiction consultants to implement game mechanics to cultivate exactly this response.

Info on the brain study can be found here.

"Screen-based media use is prevalent and increasing in home, childcare and school settings at ever younger ages, these findings highlight the need to understand effects of screen time on the brain, particularly during stages of dynamic brain development in early childhood, so that providers, policymakers and parents can set healthy limits." - Dr. Hutton.

Ways to monitor screen time addiction seems like a necessary response to a problem which is quietly growing in impact. Teachers and parents, take note. Screen time isn't just another boogie man. Overuse has direct consequences on your children's brain functions, sleep patterns, mood regulation and cognitive ability. As we live in the tech age where kids are grabbing iPads instead of books please remember that doctors used to endorse smoking before the general consensus was that they kill you.

 

From the collection of Stanford Research Into the Impact of Tobacco Advertising

 

New study suggests brain differences may be linked to obesity.
So this piece is interesting in terms of how it links brain differences and obesity which should the thinking that they are heavily connected become mainstream this could directly influence how we equip education work-spaces.

The recent study doesn't suggest that intelligence dips alongside weight gain but it does show a reduction in executive brain function alongside increased BMI.

Some critics say that studies such as these are dangerous because poor interpretation of the results can lead to unfair stigma attached to overweight people but an editorial which was published alongside the results called it "an important addition to mounting evidence of a link between weight, brain structure and mental function."

 

 

We have release many articles in this blog which demonstrates the mounting evidence that physical movement and active lifestyles directly affect academic results and even raises test score results. There are Ted Talks to this affect for those interested in learning more.

The study.

In short: These findings suggest that body mass index is associated with cortical development and diminished executive functions, such as working memory and might directly impact how in the future we look to treat obesity by improving brain function and vice versa.

The study yielded an insightful comment from one Henry Skinner MD Family Psychiatry of Maine who explains that should the cause and effect be reversed that the results might make more sense. I.e. "People with executive function challenges have more difficulty negotiating the toxic capitalist nutrition environment."

 

 

Is it simply a case of lower functioning adolescents falling vulnerable to a hostile predatory marketing machine and making ill-advised choices. Well according to Skinner child and adolescent psychiatrists observe this in clinic frequently and he believes this is the more likely reasoning for the results given that it requires fewer assumptions. (Occam ’s razor)

News Source 

Summary
So just some interesting titbit’s from the children’s health community. One thing is for sure is there is an ever growing notion that schools have the time and resources to fix every child’s health problems which is simply not the case but schools are well positioned to educate kids to make better choices and learning spaces which afford students the opportunity to include movement in their daily routines are certainly an effortless way schools can support their students mental and physical health.

We offer schools standing desk trials for this exact reason. If you want to try before you buy then visit this form and get In touch.

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Meet The School Putting Mental Health First

A film by Daniel Gordon has been released lauding one London Primary School for introducing a series of measures to combat the growing trend of poor mental health in children.

[You can watch the video here]

Highgate Primary School, has embraced several innovative measures to improve their pupils mental well-being, from dogs in the playground, sound proofed classrooms and the availability of talk therapy and psychotherapy for each student.


The school has normalised the process of attending therapy so each child feels no stigma should they wish to use the service.

The school is said to be delivering a 'well-being first’ approach. They offer on the premises drama therapy, and talk therapy which one in ten of the schools pupils attend. Most of the therapists are trainees or new graduates so with the combination of some charity funding and a small investment of £7000 per year from the school they are able to directly tackle the rise of mental health disorders in young people which is on the rise throughout the UK.

Watch the video and you can see the school has its own dog and also allows dogs to attend the school premises at drop off and pickup times.

 


Highgate has implemented 5 key measures to combat poor mental health.

1. Availability of Therapy
2. Dogs are allowed on site.
3. Soundproofed classrooms.
4. Lessons outside.
5. School is for parents too.

Every child has some lessons outside where they can engage with each other and climb trees. The classroom soundproofing allows teachers to command attention without raising their voices due to improved acoustics and the parents of pupils can also access the onsite therapists meaning the impact on the community doesn't just stop at the children but can resonate outwards to have a positive effect on the children’s households which can only help support a culture of well-being at home.

The amount of children attending Highgates onsite therapists is statistically mirrored by the data released from NHS digital last year that indicated one in nine children experience mental health disorders. That figure is for 5-15 year old's however if we broaden the scope to 5-19 year old's the figure becomes one in eight.

 


In the age group of 17-19 year olds one in four young women have a mental health disorder, emotional disorders such as anxiety ranking the highest. Over half of these reportedly have attempted suicide or self-harm.

Statistics like these are an important warning that the impacts of mental health disorders are very real and schools who go out of their way to combat the issues should be applauded and considered to delivering best practise.

 


Whilst many argue that schools already have a priority to educate and aren’t qualified to deliver therapy this school has shown how the introduction of several small but effective measures can shift the culture internally to become a learning space which caters for mental health well-being without costing a fortune or requiring massive change to be effective.

The mental health foundation has a 'Make It Count' Campaign which states that Mental Health is not extracurricular. You can find out more about the campaign here.


Mark Rowland Chief Exec of the Mental Health Foundation said

"The school environment has a significant impact on a young person’s emotional welfare. For children’s well being to thrive during school hours, teachers need the confidence and knowledge to nurture young people’s development. Equally, teachers need to be supported with their own mental health throughout their career.


By exploring the root causes that lead to distress, be it body image, relationships or exam stress, we can help build resilience and prevent mental health problems from developing in the first place. "

You can sign the foundations petition to put mental health at the heart of school culture here.


The previous education secretary Damien Hinds said every single school in the country should have a school dog. Here's a video showcasing therapy dogs in schools on channel 5 news.



Now in the spirit of introducing small changes to impact mental health in schools we would be remiss if we didn’t point you towards our try before you buy student standing desk trials.

Start your standing desk trial here.

Hundreds of schools nationwide are becoming healthier and embracing movement and physical literacy to create more attentive learning spaces by introducing standing desks into the classroom.

Take a look at our product range and apply for a trial if your school could benefit from improved engagement, better mental health, happier, better behaved children and improved academic results.







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77% Parents Are More Active Than Their Kids

The Decathalon Activity Index 2019 has shown that 77% of Parents are more active than their children. The survey asked parents to compare activity levels with their kids and even when including P.E. lessons a huge 77% of parents said they exercised more than their kids.

 


If the parent’s child is adult then the figure shot up to 93% showing a huge disparity in (self-perceived) exercise levels between generations. Our children have a 5 years shorter expected lifespan due to the sedentary crisis and given that only 11% of family’s say they exercise together this shows that not enough is being done at home to combat the problem.

Schools who integrate standing desks into their classrooms are doing their bit by stimulating movement and physical literacy but a truly combined effort is the only solution when we look to make a culture shift back towards healthy active lifestyles for our children. Failure to do this sufficiently well, experts say will bring incredible strain to the NHS when sedentary kids become unhealthy, unfit adults with burgeoning health issues associated with obesity such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

 



"We are increasingly disturbed by how often the statistics are showing us that children are just not active enough and the alarm bells haven’t set off across the country yet. Sadly this is the kind of problem that doesn’t make the headlines until the health issues it creates culminates in our NHS coming to a standstill."

- Nick White, Managing Director iwantastandingdesk.com

Parents and schools who want to combat childhood inactivity can invest in student standing desks like the Eiger Student Standing Desk. Schools can request a try before you buy trial for this here.

In July the government published the School Sport and Activity Action Plan where the government outlines their intent to make it so kids have the ability to partake in the recommended 60 mins of physical activity every day. The plan is due to updated later in the year.

 

This image shows how 80's kids were more active than today's youth.



Currently only 17.5% of children meet the required activity levels and this is going to need to dramatically improve if the government’s plan to halve childhood obesity by 2030 by supporting schools and parents enabling kids to lead healthier more active lives is to be realised.


Further reading: Schools May Be Kept Open for Sports in Holidays

The Government’s Sport and Activity Action Plan

Source

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Parents Don't Know Kids Recommended Activity Levels

Today’s child is scarily inactive. They have increased cases of depression, obesity and diabetes. They over indulge on screen time due to the widespread availability of tablets, televisions and iPhones and they are likely to live 5 years less than we are. Children don't go out to play as much as previous generations. They have been dubbed "generation inactive."

Despite the mountainous evidence to suggest that physical literacy amongst children is at a crisis point a new study has found that parents just don't understand the importance of active lifestyles and physical literacy for children.


This week is national school sport week which is now in its eleventh year and is designed to encourage schools, teachers, parents and young people to shine a light on the importance of sport for our physical and mental health. The Youth Sport Trust who run the week long event commissioned the 2000+ person study which indicated that only a quarter of parents know that children should be active for at least thirty minutes each day according to the chief medical officers recommendations.

Other research found that only seven percent of girls and 11 percent of boys at secondary age are undertaking more than 60 mins of activity per day. There is also a disparity between children from different economic backgrounds with 39% of children from the poorest family’s doing less than 30 mins exercise a day compared to 26% from richer families.

“We’ve seen a worrying trend in recent years of a decline in young people’s physical activity, and a squeeze on time allocated to good quality PE,” said Ali Oliver, the YST’s chief executive. “With our new research showing that most people do not know how much physical activity children should be aiming for, it has never been more important to raise awareness of why this is so important.


“Our work with schools across the country all year round shows the power of sport and play to improve young people’s confidence, tackle stress and equip them with the skills to succeed in life.”

Only 17.5 per cent of children and young people were currently meeting the government target, according to Sport England’s most recent Active Lives Survey.

Damian Hinds in December last year called upon leading institutions in sport such as the Premier League, Rugby Football Union and England Hockey to advise the government on how they could fulfil his ambition of making competitive sport accessible to all children. The governments sport action plan focuses on health, well being and character.

"Sport has the power to boost physical and mental well being, while teaching important life skills. We are committed to building on the fantastic range of programmes already provided by the governing bodies here today to reach even more young people."

Sports Minister Mims Davies

Damian Hinds Said at the December summit

"Education is not just about the taking and passing of exams, important though these are. We want all young people to leave formal education as happy, confident and well-rounded individuals. It is clear that exercise and organised sport in particular can play a huge part in children’s personal resilience and emotional wellbeing."

Many schools are using their sports premium funding to integrate physical movement into their learning spaces with standing desks in their classrooms. If you would like to undertake a trial on a try before you buy basis then head over here and fill in the short form.

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Soon Welsh Schools Will Decide If They Include P.E.

Despite recent news that two thirds of parents believe that P.E. should get as much importance as the core subjects, the new draft curriculum due to be implemented by the 2022 educational year for Wales includes zero mandatory physical education in the timetable. No set amount of time has been enforced and individual schools can decide how much P.E. time is allocated in the school week.

The Welsh Government said the curriculum "takes into consideration the importance of physical activity" as "wellbeing" is supposedly built into one of six primary areas of focus within the new curriculum.



The NHS are prioritising preventative medicine and health and fitness improvements to stave off disease yet the latest draft curriculum including no P.E. allocation has former gold medallist Baroness Grey-Thomson concerned that in 15 years’ time Wales NHS will feel the strain of a generation of inactive children without the fitness to stay healthy as a consequence of schools minimising or completely removing P.E. from the curriculum.

"If sport is not explicitly mentioned, it will just drop off. Whatever the meaning and the intention, it won't have the same priority.

"We won't see the problem right now, we'll see it 15 or 20 years down the line when the NHS bill goes through the roof because we have a generation of young adults who are just not fit enough to be healthy."

Childhood obesity is at crisis point as obesity related cancer diagnosis spike amongst UK kids...should the latest changes be echoed through the U.K. it will surely impact negatively on the nation’s overall health and the NHS ability to cope. Latest figures show that children’s expected lifespans are now 5 years shorter than ever before and obesity and childhood diabetes is at an all-time high as well.

Many schools are adopting standing desks to inject a culture of physical literacy into their classrooms. (We recently wrote about standing desk classrooms reducing students BMI here) The standing classroom should see an upsurge if the idea of undertaking Physical Ed outside the classroom is possibly phased out in favour of schools working towards stricter timetables to achieve better academic results. Many schools are now allocating their sports premium funding to including standing desk in their learning spaces. Schools wishing to trial before they buy standing desks designed specifically for classrooms can get in touch here.


The baroness chaired a group which recommended that P.E. be made into a core subject and this recommendation was not implemented. Rather the school improvement service for Wales said they believed that their changes would be better for pupils as sport will be used to support learning and will be considered valued by society, "rather than just being something that small groups of individuals benefit from."

The problem with statements such as these are they lack any substance. No references to how sport will be implemented in the absence of P.E. time in the curriculum. Without rules and management how will our children’s Physical education not become a postcode lottery?

Chief exec of sport Wales said the success or failure will rest on the quality of training that teachers receive. A fact which already puts the onus on the schools themselves to change how they include physical education if they do not include specific time for just sport and exercise.

"The essential thing is to build up the confidence, motivation and skills of teachers to be able to deliver a high quality curriculum. But if we don't see that, then this is a curriculum that doesn't actually deliver the changes that we need to see." - Sarah Powell (Sport Wales) The following video shows how important student physical movement impacts the learning environment.

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Warning Signs of Obesity Appear From Age 2

Should 2 Year Olds Be Measured To Red Flag Childhood Obesity?

The Mail online seems to think so. Following conversations with Manchester Uni researchers who have determined that you may be able to see early warning signs of childhood and possible future adult obesity from as early as two years old.

Research has shown us that if children are overweight at primary age they are more likely to be overweight adults. As part of the National Child Measurement Programme, children are weighed and measured at school in reception and year 6. The information is used by the NHS to plan and provide better health services for children.


New independent research undertaken at the University of Manchester and published in the peer-reviewed journal Preventive Medicine Reports explains there is a connection with early growth patterns and the likelihood of later life obesity. Following an interview with the researchers the Mail Online has produced an article stating that children should be weighed from age 2 in order to try and predict those with possible future obesity risk. The researchers stating that only collecting the data twice during schooling allows for at risk children to be missed.



The researchers harnessed results from over 1000 other studies from all around the world and collated the results to extrapolate their findings. The sheer breadth of the subject studies means it's difficult to specific how applicable the results are just for the UK school kids however the study does seem to illustrate clearly that early growth patterns can be used as a clear red flag for later life obesity and this information should potentially be built into our early assessment and preventative NHS model being touted by Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

( We wrote about this here NHS To Embrace Preventative Innovations to Prevent Illness and here Prevention is better than Cure - New Report Published by NHS )

“Right now, the obesity epidemic is probably the worst it’s ever been,” says Daniel Ganjian, MD, paediatric obesity specialist.

Public Health England has produced slides to illustrate the childhood obesity data updated in June 2017.



Research has shown that integrating standing desks into classrooms reduce the students BMI in just a year. With the childhood obesity crisis hitting record breaking highs, is it time to start asking your school what they are doing to combat the issue? If your a conscientious head teacher / teacher and want to start making moves to improving physical literacy in your classroom by including standing desk stations you can utilise your sports premium to access funds. 

Schools wishing to try before you buy can trial standing desks for students by visiting this short form and getting in touch.

 

Resources:

The National Child Measurement Programme 

To calculate your child’s BMI there are online apps and resources available such as this one.

Change4Life Website offers tips for parents hoping to get their whole family in shape and combat the obesity crisis.

NHS has advice for you if your child is overweight

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Standing Desk Classrooms Reduce Student BMI

An estimated 41 million children worldwide are deemed overweight or obese (World Health Organisation, 2017)

A study by the World Health Organisation and Imperial College London showed that the number of obese children and adolescents has increased tenfold in the past four decades and should current trends continue then more children will be obese than underweight by 2022. To put this in simple terms in 1975 there were 11 Million obese children now 124 million kids are obese meanwhile another 213 million are overweight but shy of the obesity threshold.

BMI is a measure of a person’s weight and body fat mass for their height, and indicates whether their weight is healthy.

A study undertaken by researcher Monica Wendel, University of Louisville School of Public Health and Information Sciences has shown a significant drop in student Body Mass Index for classrooms fitted out with student standing desks for kids.

The study was published by the American Journal of Public Health and included 193 kids at three Primary age schools. Children in the control classrooms used traditional desk seating (The kind one Head teacher referred to as inhumane!) whilst the test subjects used standing desks with the option of rest stools.

At the beginning of the study each students BMI was recorded along with pertinent information on their age, weight, gender, height etc. and after one and two years the same information was collected for comparison.

After adjusting for grade, race, ethnicity and gender Wendel discovered a 5.24% decrease in the standing desk classrooms student body B.M.I. The same results also showed up after only one year.

"School-age children spend most of their waking hours during the week at school. Changing classrooms to stand-biased environments has the potential to affect millions of children by interrupting sedentary behaviour, and this can be done simply, at a low cost, and without disrupting classroom instruction," Wendel said.

Now childhood obesity levels are at a record high so the simple implementation of standing desk classrooms affecting student BMI is an excellent supporting argument for making the move to include them in your learning space. Schools wishing to trial standing desks in their classrooms can start a try before you buy trial here. 

New data published in October 2018 showed year 6 child obesity has increased by more than a third in 2007. This was from data captured by the national child measurement programme overseen by Public Health England.

The same data captured has shown;

  • The proportion of overweight and obese children in reception year (aged 4 to 5) has remained at 22.4% equal to a staggering 136,586 children
  • For year 6 children, it is 34.3% (equal to 197,888 children) compared to 31.6% in 2006 to 2007

 

 

Dr Alison Tedstone, Chief Nutritionist at PHE described childhood obesity as a Crisis which the government needs to tackle with bold steps.

"This threat to our children’s health has been decades in the making – we’re moving in the right direction but reversing it will not happen overnight."

 

Further reading:

Article on Record number of severely obese children by BBC 

World Health Organization: Tenfold increase in childhood and adolescent obesity in four decades

 

 

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Movement Teaching Kids Tolerance

Whilst both groups clearly benefit from the well-established benefits of physical activity, children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) tend to experience poorer physical health than children without.

Evidence suggests an improvement in mental well-being, concentration and general academia for SEND kids who experience physical activity. Perhaps even more importantly essential life skills such as how to make and keep friends, social cues and sharing and communication are boosted for SEND kids when they undertake physical activity with non-SEND kids.

The benefits are two-fold as Non SEND children benefit from the experience also by developing a sense of compassion, tolerance and sensitivity to social diversity.



Studies have highlighted a need for teachers, coaches and schools to better understand how to include their SEND children in physical activity. Meanwhile local communities are struggling to properly advertise any local opportunities for physical activity that is inclusive for SEND children.

The Daily Mile is one way in which schools are trying to integrate inclusive exercise into their students’ lives but some schools are also including Student Standing Desks into their classrooms as a way to offer an alternative means of movement and physical literacy for their children. Many schools report that whilst these can be excellent resources for non-SEND kids many have seen increased benefit for children with a range of disorders and disabilities including Attention Deficit Disorder.



Jo Rees, Assistant Headteacher, ARK Atwood Primary Academy

So hope is not lost for schools looking to improve their in house physical activity provision. The Youth Sport Trust offer extensive support and resources for schools looking to upskill their staff in being able to support SEND and non-SEND kids in the physical activity and sport. Their website states;


The full YST strategy


"82% of schools and children's groups reported that the availability of appropriate facilities or equipment was a key barrier to participation by children with disabilities."

"We are a national children's charity passionate about creating a future where every child enjoys the life-changing benefits that come from play and sport."

The BBC has also teamed up with the Premier League to create Super Movers which is designed to encourage primary school children to get more active.


There is also a great site called Parasport which can help you to find sports or activity based clubs in your area. https://parasport.org.uk/

If you want to talk to us about including standing desks in your classroom then just drop us a message into the chat on the website or visit this trial page to sign up for a try before you buy on student standing desks. 

 

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70,000 Deaths A Year Are Caused by Sitting

Researchers from Queen’s University Belfast and Ulster University in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health claimed their figures were conservative when they put a figure of £700,000 a year cost to the NHS attributed to the impacts of a sedentary lifestyle. The new research explains 70,000 deaths a year are linked to negative impacts of sedentary behaviour. In short; sitting is killing you.

The researchers recommended measures be taken to reduce inactivity in order to reduce the strain on the NHS resources and improve population health.

Sitting for long periods does contribute to the likelihood that you will become obese (which itself reportedly costs the NHS 6 Billion and causes 30K deaths every year ) but importantly they report the act of sitting has an impact on the body at a physiological level.

When we sit for long periods our body's response to insulin becomes less effective. Insulin mops up excess sugar in the blood and failure of this to work leads to risk of type 2 diabetes.

Sitting increases our risk of heart disease as the ratio of of good cholesterol to bad cholesterol tips towards the negative with extensive sitting.

A study published last year showed a shocking 70% increase in risk of colorectal cancer for people who sit for two hours a day watching TV.

Dr Mike Brannan, national lead for physical activity at Public Health England says: ‘Even if you are physically active, sitting for long periods of time damages your health and greatly increases your risks of a broad range of health conditions.’

The reality is that if sitting were a product it would come with dire health warnings and be subject to punitive fines. The negative impact is far reaching and can't be countered by bouts of exercise alone. Instead regular breaks from sitting are essential and getting in the the habit of movement can be helped by embracing the standing desk culture.

NHS stats on obesity and inactivity


In fact schools have started trialling standing desks and have found an increase in productivity and increased engagement. An 8 school trial at primary level found ‘Teachers reported the standing desks improved the children’s concentration and improved behaviour,’ says Dr Clemes. ‘But the biggest promising effect was the improvement it had on reading scores.’

‘We know from studies that children who sit a lot are likely to become adults who sit a lot and our thinking is if we can get in early and change their mindset these children will be less likely to be so sedentary’

If your school wants to trial standing desks for kids you can visit our trial page and sign up in just 60 seconds.

You may also want to read: Sitting Is Deadly For Students & Guidance from the NHS: Health matters: obesity and the food environment

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