Stevenage’s childhood obesity problem provides ‘great deal of food for thought’
PUBLISHED: 16:58 19 January 2020
More than a third of 10 and 11 year olds in Stevenage are overweight or obese, prompting children in the town to consider the problem and suggest some solutions.
Findings from the National Child Measurement Programme show the three-year average - 2015/16 to 2017/18 - of Year 6 children in Stevenage who are overweight or obese in Stevenage is 33.4 per cent, which is significantly higher than the Hertfordshire average of 28.6 per cent for 2017/18.
A group of 56 pupils who attend secondary schools in Stevenage - all aged 16 - took part in a consultation about obesity, led by the University of Hertfordshire in collaboration with Hertfordshire County Council.
They discussed what it's like to live in the town, their everyday lives and how obesity might be related to their experiences.
The main issue that arose was the affordability of healthy food and physical activities. The young people said fast food is cheaper and more accessible than healthier options in Stevenage, the cost of a gym membership and other physical activities are too expensive, and free activities are often targeted at younger children.
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They also felt many children are driven to school, instead of walking or cycling.
Ideas to tackle the problem included banning cars in the town centre, regulating the advertising of unhealthy foods, promoting sports clubs and increasing healthy eating education.
The consultation findings will be used to inform the county council's obesity plans.
The University of Hertfordshire's professor Wendy Wills said: "Childhood obesity has been identified as a health priority locally and involving young people is an important part of developing solutions."
Tim Hutchings, Herts County Council's cabinet member for public health and prevention, said: "We have listened carefully to what the young people have told us and are encouraged to see they have put forward some very creative and practical solutions for us to consider.
"This piece of work provides a great deal of food for thought and demonstrates we all need to work together more effectively.
"We need to look beyond individual behaviours to see how we can improve the local environment to help people achieve a healthy weight and a greater sense of wellbeing."