A third of children are overweight or obese and over three quarters of parents do not recognise weight problems in their children, according to England's Chief Medical Officer, Dame Sally Davies.
Responding to the findings highlighted within the Chief Medical Officer's annual report on the state of the nation's health, Councillor Liz Fairhurst Executive Member for Adult Social Care and Public Health at Hampshire County Council; said: "It is important that we help parents to recognise the signs of their children being overweight and empower the whole family to become fitter, healthier and happier through a greater understanding of food and activity.
"Being overweight or obese in childhood has serious consequences for health in both the short and the longer term, including increasing the likelihood of developing conditions such as type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease. Early intervention is important, which is why we have programmes that work with children from the age of five."
The MEND programme (Mind, Exercise, Nutrition...Do It!), a public health programme commissioned by Hampshire County Council, helps families to lead healthy happy lives through taking up fun activities. It is a free, ten-week programme of lively, interactive group sessions to promote healthy lifestyles and address issues arising from being overweight. It helps families to understand the complexities of things such as food labelling, different types of food, how much you need, and enjoyable ways to be active as a family.
Children can enjoy active play sessions as well as learn with their family about the effects of food choices. Parents will also be invited to discuss ways to encourage behaviour change across the whole family including reducing the amount of time their children spend watching television, and positive goal setting and rewards.
Programmes are for families with children aged five to seven or seven to 13 years and the child must either live or attend school within the area covered by Hampshire County Council. The child must also be over a healthy weight (overweight or obese). Check your child's weight. All Year R's and Year 6 pupils can be weighed and measured as part of the National Child Measurement programme. Many will have already been measured and parents/carers will have received a letter telling them if their child is underweight, healthy weight, overweight, or very overweight.
Families can register themselves now for the MEND Programmes due to start after Easter, in Basingstoke, Eastleigh, Winchester, New Forest, East Hampshire, Havant and Hart. Families need to be able to commit to the ten-week programme and have a willingness to make changes to their lifestyle. Places will be allocated on a first come first served basis. Further courses will be available in due course.