Emily Darter finds that Hackney’s anti-obesity programme isn’t quite hacking it.
The London Borough of Hackney has the second highest rate of childhood obesity nationwide, with more than 25 per cent of Year Six children classed as clinically obese. Hackney is also ranked the second most deprived area in the country.
Deprivation and obesity are travelling in tandem in this part of East London.
Obesity will cost East London and City NHS Trust £94 million this year. Homerton Hospital even has its own bariatric unit, offering weight loss surgery costing between £5,000 and £14,000 for each operation.
In response to the problem of obesity Hackney borough council has introduced a range of initiatives including ‘Wild Walks’, aiming to make physical exercise fun for children by inviting them to follow nature trails through local parks.
Another initiative is MEND (Mind, Exercise, Nutrition…Do It!) – a free service for overweight children aged 7-13. It consists of a 10-week programme which encourages children and parents ‘to be label aware’, alongside exercise classes for kids and healthy meal ideas for mums and dads.
Most participants reported lower BMI scores and narrowing waistlines as a result of taking part in the programme.
As national government toys with the idea of taxing junk food, so local government has floated a whole raft of such initiatives. But judging by the continuing rise in obesity rates, neither national nor local government is measuring up to the scale of the problem.
Surely it’s time for a re-think, perhaps including a healthy food allowance for low income households which will otherwise opt for the cheaper, less healthy option.