MP urges government to learn from Sheffield project tackling child obesity

An MP told the government it should learn lessons from a Sheffield project tackling child obesity in Parliament this week.

By Molly Williams, Local Democracy Reporter
Friday, 28th May 2021, 3:59 pm

Paul Blomfield MP for Sheffield Central, highlighted the work of SHINE Health Academy, a Manor-based charity supporting young people with obesity, and pressed the government to provide similar services across the country funded by the NHS.

It came 18 months after Mr Blomfield introduced members of the government’s health select committee to the charity in Sheffield.

In his speech to ministers, Mr Bomfield said one in four children enter primary school overweight or obese and one in three leave in that position six years later and the Obesity Health Alliance calculated there are 450,000 in the UK who, if they were adults, would be eligible for bariatric surgery.

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Town Hall.

He said: “This is one of the greatest long-term health challenges we face and it starts with our children…We have a shocking problem that gets worse during children’s primary years.”

On the work of SHINE, based in his constituency, he added: “They take children on referral from GPs, teachers, and social workers. They have great outcomes. But they’re funded mainly by charities because neither Clinical Commissioning Groups nor Local Authorities have the responsibility for commissioning services. And that must change.

“Imagine for a moment we were talking about another disease; say cancer. Would we say that we’ll invest in prevention, but offer no treatment to children? Of course not. So why do we accept it for obesity?”

Kath Sharman, managing director of SHINE Health Academy, said weight issues not only pose medical risks such as diabetes and fatty liver but also have psychosocial impacts affecting emotional wellbeing, mental health and academic achievement.

She said: “After several years of campaigning for appropriate funding to be allocated to weight management services for children and young people living with severe obesity and complex needs, it is reassuring for our voice to be heard at parliamentary level. We are grateful to MP Paul Blomfield who has supported us on our journey, after meeting with our young people and hearing about their lived experiences.

“Obesity is a disease and not a choice, and I am so encouraged to hear this is now being recognised. Intervention is equally as important as prevention.”