In response to its new duty, Hertfordshire County Council’s Health & Wellbeing Board has devised a strategy to encourage the maintenanceof a “healthy weight” at all stages of life. This can be checked simply and easily by a rough estimate called the BMI (“Body Mass Index”) which can be calculated from a person’s weight in kilogrammes multiplied by the square of their height in metres. People are advised to keep their BMI between 18 and 25, though persons of S Asian or Chinese origin (who are at greater risk of Type 2 Diabetes) are advised to keep their BMI between 18 and 23.
It is important to maintain a healthy weight throughout life and for a mother-to-be to be overweight or obese when entering pregnancy is a risk factor for childhood obesity in her baby.
In Hertfordshire, among reception year children (4 – 6 years old), 13% are overweight and 7% obese. This is slightly better than the average figures for England. Though they remain better than the England average, the figures do deteriorate as our children get older and in Hertfordshire, among Year 6 children (10 – 11 years old) 14% are overweight and 11% are obese.
Sadly, 80% of children who are obese between the times when they are 10 to 14 years old go on to become obese adults.
In later life obesity becomes a health risk for a number of diseases such as:
- Coronary Heart Disease
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Certain Cancers
There are also links (though not necessarily either causes or effects) between obesity and bullying, low self-esteem, poorer mental health and fewer opportunities to work.
Action planned to address the problems of being overweight or obese includes
- Raising awareness of the need not to be overweight or obese when entering pregnancy
- Breastfeeding support from health visitors and via the Childrens Centres
- Ensuring all schools have an active travel plan (i.e. which includes cycling and walking)
- Ensuring that both children and adults have the cooking skills to prepare healthy meals
- Promoting a more physically active life style for all age groups
- Working with planners to provide more open spaces and facilities for walking and cycling
- Promoting encouragement to healthy eating in schools and in the workplace
- Raising awareness and understanding of the causes of obesity.
We all have a part to play here – but we’ll feel all the better for it!