Sheffield MP backs call for funding to tackle 'appalling' child obesity rates

A Sheffield MP claims the city is showing the way forward when it comes to tackling Britain’s ‘appalling’ child obesity rates but much more government funding is needed.

Monday, 28th October 2019, 8:56 am
Updated Monday, 28th October 2019, 4:55 pm

Around one in five children nationally are overweight or obese when they start primary school, rising to one in three by the time they leave, and some studies suggest that for teenagers the figure could be higher than two in five.

SHINE Health Academy in Sheffield has enjoyed great success helping young people in the city manage their weight by taking what it calls a holistic approach, supporting them with everything from leading a healthier lifestyle to addressing the underlying problems like anxiety and depression.

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Paul Blomfield MP (pic: Chris Etchells)

Sheffield Central MP Paul Blomfield has been hugely impressed by the non-profit organisation, which relies on money from Children in Need, and he is supporting its call for government funding for ‘tier three’ services like SHINE provides to help children who are already severely overweight.

The Government currently prioritises funding ‘tier one’ – or preventative – services to address child obesity, with no funding for tier three support.

Mr Blomfield says he hopes that will change after joining SHINE’s founder Kath Sharman at what he described as an encouraging meeting last week with public health minister Jo Churchill.

“Across the country things are appalling, and the problem is getting worse,” he said.

SHINE Health Academy founder Kath Sharman leads a session for young people (pic: Steve Ellis)

“The Government’s rightly putting some emphasis on prevention but there’s no provision to support those who are already overweight.

“We’re talking about tens of thousands of children and young people nationally who could benefit from the sort of specialist intervention SHINE provides. We need to help them before they go down a long route towards serious health problems which will affect them for the rest of their lives, like type 2 diabetes and liver and heart issues.

“I’m confident any money invested would more than pay for itself by saving the NHS money in the long run.

“SHINE gets referrals from Sheffield Children’s Hospital, social services and schools, but it struggles to keep going without any government funding.

“The analysis shows its work has immediate effects and long-term ones, with so many of the young people who’ve been helped returning as role models and volunteers to help others.

“Sheffield is leading the way. We just need to get the Government to put the funding in place to support SHINE in Sheffield and ensure similar services can be provided across the country.”

A study led by James Nobles, of the University of Bristol, found young people supported by SHINE reduced their BMI (body mass index) by 0.19 units on average in the first three months and 0.41 over 12 months, which is significantly more than those attending other weight loss programmes in the UK.

Mr Blomfield said: “I was encouraged by our meeting with the minister but we’re going to continue to press for funding until it’s provided.”