The government has been called upon in a report released by the outgoing Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davis to adopt her recommended policy changes designed to directly tackle childhood obesity.
The report entitled "Time to Solve Childhood Obesity" asks politicians and policy makers to focus the lasers of their policy making to etch out a future for our children which includes creating and shaping our towns and communities so there are healthy transport options, access to affordable healthy food, and a barrier against often despicable junk food marketing.
Since 1990 obesity levels amongst our children has risen by a whopping 50%. Attributable not only to the emergence of entertainment technology which encourages sedentary lifestyles but also our diets and availability / uptake of physical activity spaces.
Childhood obesity is a real issue that will undoubtedly increase pressures on the NHS over the coming decades as the unhealthy children of today become unfit and obese adults who are statistically more likely to develop health concerns as a result of their weight. These can range from diabetes, heart conditions and cancers to the development of mental health problems as a result of inactivity and isolation.
In short, obesity is the enemy and in the absence of a silver bullet to tackle him, measures need to be taken to ensure we are all fit enough to escape him.
The report stresses a need to put our children’s health above the profits of corporations. This is particularly poignant in light of the recent controversial deal agreed this month by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and KP Snacks.
There are 53,000 fast food outlets in England and more than half of them are within 400 Meters of a primary school. The marketing towards children is aggressive and uses social media influencers to create unhealthy behaviour patterns by exposing children to junk food mascots and their online heroes indulging in energy products and unhealthy snacks.
The report asks politicians to take a leaf out of history and in the same way that policies of 1965 protected children from cigarette advertising on TV and the 1989 policies ensuring seat-belts are put on children in cars that modern day politicians should exercise their ability to shape the future landscape by using the law to change our children’s lives for the better.
Startling facts such as unhealthy food being three times cheaper are highlighted throughout the report which quite rightly explains we as a nation are not doing enough to ensure our populations future health. Suggestions on how VAT could be applied differently to healthy versus unhealthy foods illustrate how policy can encourage businesses to adopt healthy ranges over their more expensive unhealthy alternatives.
The road map to combating childhood obesity is a much needed and hopefully it doesn’t fall on deaf ears before it’s too late and the new crisis is a failing NHS due to a spike in obesity related disease and death.
The report main principles being recommended are as follows.
• Re-balance the food and drinks sold to favour healthy options, through regulation.
• Allow children to grow up free from marketing, signals and incentives to consume unhealthy food and drinks.
• Introduce innovative policies that find the win-wins for children’s health and the private sector: E.g. continue private sector sponsorship of major sporting events, facilities and stars, but only allow advertising and sales of their most healthy products on site.
• Invest in and design the built environment to create opportunities for children to be active and healthy.
• Take action to improve: exercise and healthy weight in pregnancy, breastfeeding rates, and infant feeding.
• Ensure schools and nurseries play a central role, supported by Ofsted monitoring. Teachers know that being overweight impacts on children’s lives and they need support to do the right things. Food, drink and physical activity standards should be set and adhered to in all schools and nurseries.
• Ensure our NHS and health sector workforce can deliver what our children and families need to prevent, manage and treat obesity, including having conversations about weight and tackling weight-related stigma.
• Make better use of data to guide practice: e.g. systematically link and share data on children’s weight to intervene early; share private sector data, such as supermarket sales data, with policymakers and researchers
• Protect and prioritise our children’s health and rights while making trade deals. Their health and a healthy environment must come above company profits.
• Develop the evidence base to inform practice and policy.
Those wishing to read the full report can do so here.
Standing Desks for Children's Health
Standing Desks are being implemented by Schools wishing to take responsibility for their pupils health and well being. A "try before you buy" trial of the Eiger Standing Desk is available for your classrooms. Just fill in a simple form and we'll get you started. Here's the form.
Schools can use pupil and student support premiums to fund the cost of desks and join hundreds of other education centres in the UK to send a message to their communities that they are proactively tackling in-school sedentary habits.
There has been some debate this week amongst parents of Leamington Spa school Telford Junior, since the school has introduced a new style of sporty school uniform designed around a tracksuit.
In place of the usual smart attire the head teacher has implemented a uniform of sportswear with trainers raising concerns amongst parents of the increased cost to purchase.
The head teacher explained the uniform which many pupils have started wearing would serve a more "active" curriculum featuring the daily mile and active lessons such as the super movers’ classes.
In wales in 2022 the new curriculum due to be implemented is said to include well-being at the core of many subjects. Should England’s curriculum borrow from the same songbook this may be first of many schools opting to introduce a sporty alternative to the school uniform in the future.
We frequently work with active schools and understand that any actions schools can take to change the mentality of their students towards the idea of increased movement and fitness can only yield positive results.
Higher activity levels in students who embrace physical literacy and use standing desks in the classroom have improved academic results, increased engagement and experience overall improvements in physical and mental health and well-being. You only need to glance through this blog to get a sense of the myriad of statistics supporting active classrooms.
Despite initial objections from about 40% of the parents the new uniforms have come into use and some parents said the new uniform is "smart" and the “children liked it” however one parent said "I could understand the children going to school in games kits on days they had sports but to be wearing it every day I think will put the children in a different mind-set towards school,"
Will this school see an increase in physical activity adoption amongst the tracksuit wearing school kids? Does the sense of school pride increase or diminish when the uniform becomes casual?
One piece in the New Yorker discusses how liberating school uniform can be and how some schools experience notable difference following the introduction of uniforms, reporting fluctuations in the regularity of violence. It’s certainly true amongst sociology experiments that our behaviour can become altered based on the uniforms we adopt.
In this example students wearing police uniforms exhibited biased attention towards individuals wearing hoodies. The Leamington Spa school did debate using hoodies but this idea was apparently quickly thrown out.
Parents received the following letter when initially consulted which leads with the idea of active wear for an active curriculum.
Will this school see a difference in how its smart uniform wearing children behave towards the sports kit kids? This writer believes there is a danger of creating a culture divide amongst young children when a new uniform isn’t adopted by every child as is the case with the Leamington School.
Simply dressing some as smart and some as sporty may well have an impact in the student’s sense of identity. I certainly believe that we are starting to tread into dangerous territory when we give children yet another reason to treat one another as different.
It’s certainly an interesting move and one that I believe reflects the shifting consciousness towards embracing well-being as imperative for the next generation to grow up happy and healthy.
Will other schools follow suit? Well assuming a riot doesn’t break out between the tie wearers and the tracksuit gang this writer believes we may see this type of cultural shift popping up more and more over the coming years in line with the education sector starting to prioritise the notion that they are responsible for children for huge portions of the day so these are the hours that kids must be encouraged to be active and understand their own health.
Hopefully this new idea proves successful and the potential for backlash is managed successfully as its possible the improved mentality from wearing a sporty outfit should have a positive influence on the school children. If you dress healthy maybe it’s possible you start to eat healthy and move healthy.
In 2012 two researchers tested students in two alternative uniforms and found a notable difference in behaviour coining the term “enclothed cognition”
“It’s all about the symbolic meaning that you associate with a particular item of clothing,” Adam said. And he thinks the study’s results can be applied to many more fields, including activewear and fitness. “I think it would make sense that when you wear athletic clothing, you become more active and more likely to go to the gym and work out.”
You may also want to read:
Psychology of Lululemon: How Fashion Affects Fitness
Soon Welsh Schools Will Decide If They Include P.E.
The Downsides of School Uniforms - The New Yorker
Let us know what you think about the new uniform by commenting below or getting in touch via our socials.