Over the past 6 years, extensive work has been taking place in Lambeth around food, health and wellbeing to reduce childhood obesity.
Lambeth has trained over 1,000 local frontline staff in how to identify, raise and refer children with weight problems for appropriate support. This has included school nurses, health visitors, GPs, practice nurses and community workers being given practical tools, including leaflets, a BMI (body mass index) wheel and growth charts.
The nutrition training offered to children’s centre staff and those working in early years settings includes tips on common issues – for example dealing with fussy eaters and how to promote healthy eating. Food workers linked to children’s centres also run cook-and-eat sessions to give parents and staff ideas on how to provide tasty, healthy snacks and meals on a budget.
For schools, there is a healthy weight programme which has helped train 400 staff, including head teachers and governors to communicate healthy lifestyle messages effectively. The training helps them to understand what food policies should look like and the use of online health resources in lessons, such as how weights, measures and calories can be part of maths teaching.
Schools are also supported by a specialist healthy weight school nurse who proactively follows up overweight and obese children identified in the National Child Measurement Programme. The nurse also works closely with and refers families to the 2 weight management services that are run.
60 practitioners deliver Lambeth’s ‘Natural Thinkers’ programme for early years and primary age school children. This encourages children and their families to get involved with nature, with healthy food as the main component. Activities have helped children to develop skills such as team building, sharing ideas, problem solving, creativity, and self-awareness.
Lambeth is also planning to launch a number of new projects. These includine a social marketing campaign co-designed with young people and a Village Food Hub in a particularly deprived ward in Lambeth, which is home to 14,000 families. This will involve investment in sustainable food enterprises, improving cooking skills, increasing the consumption of healthy food, and reducing food waste.
The borough is testing giving out fruit and vegetable vouchers to vulnerable families with young children. 94% said their intake of fruit and vegetables had increased. 79% reported a decrease in take away and fast food. All families said that both they and their children were feeling healthier and happier since receiving the vouchers.