Fewer PE lessons and cuts to youth services blamed for huge Herts obesity problem

PUBLISHED: 08:30 03 July 2019

One in five children in Hertfordshire are overweight or obese by the time they are just five years old. Picture: Pexels.

One in five children in Hertfordshire are overweight or obese by the time they are just five years old. Picture: Pexels.

Archant

School dinners, fewer PE lessons, cuts to youth services and a reduction in outside play were some of the factors in the spotlight during a discussion about childhood obesity in Herts.

Members of Herts County Council's public health and prevention cabinet panel were told that one in five children in Hertfordshire - 19.3 per cent - are overweight or obese by the time they are just five years old.

And they heard that 28.6 per cent of 11-year-olds in the county have been found to be overweight or obese - equivalent to around 11 pupils in every classroom.

They endorsed the council's public health strategy to prevent people from becoming overweight - and support people who are - through encouraging people to live healthy lives, working collaboratively and providing support services particularly for children and young people.

Councillors also pointed to a number of factors to account for the significant number of children who are overweight.

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Cllr Lynn Chesterman said developments of flats made it increasingly difficult for children to play outside.

She also raised concerns about school dinners, saying: "When I hear what they have had for school meals I'm quite horrified. If that's the only meal some of these children are getting, I do get quite concerned."

Cllr Ron Tindall suggested it was, at least in part, connected to changes in the school curriculum - where there is less physical education than a generation ago.

And Cllr Tim Hutchings - the executive member for public health and prevention - highlighted parents' role. He recalled going out to play early in the morning and only returning home for meals. While acknowledging parents would say they could no longer send their children out to play, he said that was "rubbish".

However, Cllr Nigel Quinton said underinvestment had made it more difficult for many families to find anything for their children to do. "We are not investing in youth services anymore," he said. "We need more investment in youth services so there is more for kids to do outside of schools. Obviously that's going to have an impact - not just on physical health but on knife crime and other things that are tearing apart our communities."

The report also highlights that 60.4 per cent of the county's adult population are overweight or obese, compared to a national average of 62 per cent.

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