Overcoming the obesity crisis is everyone’s problem

Dr Gill Harris, Consultant Paediatric Clinical Psychologist

 

Yesterday marked an exciting point in the history of the Infant and Toddler Forum!

After fifteen years of supporting parents and professionals in early years’ nutrition and development, we are transitioning to become a Community Interest Company (CIC).

As a newly established legal entity with a common social purpose at its heart, the ITF will now have the freedom to fundraise, apply for grants, and work with like-minded partners to shape the healthy habits message more widely into homes and communities.

The occasion was celebrated with a reception at Royal Society of Medicine’s Chandos House which announced the ITF’s aim to place early years, the crucial window of opportunity, at the heart of the obesity prevention agenda. It was an exciting night for the ITF who were delighted to see such a strong turn-out of individuals, organisations and stakeholders committed to early years health and nutrition.

When the Infant & Toddler Forum first began to offer parents and healthcare professionals practical advice on feeding young children, childhood obesity was only just beginning to enter the public consciousness.

Today, the problem of excess weight gain in young children is widely recognised as a worldwide epidemic with serious long-term health consequences. The NHS spends £5bn per year on obesity, that’s more than on the police force, fire service and ambulance service combined. The only way to reduce this is to prevent overweight and obesity at an early stage in life. We know that the process of obesity starts at conception and is established by the time children start school. We also know that obese children are then more likely to become obese adults.

The current obesity epidemic has been years in the making… so there isn’t a quick fix! An integrated, whole system approach will be critical if we are to stem the tide of obesity, including not only action at both national and local levels, but also action by industry, communities, families and society as a whole.

Our work is therefore more important than ever – both for today and for future generations.

As a CIC we want to respond to this challenge so that we can achieve our mission of giving every child the healthiest start in life and making prevention ACTIONABLE.

This means reaching into more communities and working with all key stakeholders to ensure that everyone plays their part in tackling childhood obesity. A multidisciplinary approach is vital to defeat obesity with concerted and cooperative action needed at every level.

June O’Sullivan, CEO London Early Years Foundation guest and supporter of the ITF said “We have partnered with the ITF from the very beginning and our joint work has shown us the vital importance of tackling the early years. There is ‘strength in numbers’ and I strongly believe that we need to bring together the many organisations currently working in silos, if we are to give children the healthiest possible start in life. We look forward to continuing our work with the ITF, alongside collaborating with like-minded organisations, to ensure we give our children’s health the highest priority”.

We know that families need practical support to make healthier choices – so they can take small steps to improve their own health and the health of their children. They don’t need to be told what to do. They need help to change their behaviour. That’s where the Infant and Toddler Forum come in… Through providing continued education and support and collaborating with ambitious like-minded partners, the ITF will continue to aim to build a future where poor early eating habits are stopped in their tracks.

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Further Reading

  • Lucy Upton, Specialist Paediatric Dietitian and Nutritionist   Although the number of people in the UK forced to turn to food banks has been on the rise for a number of years now, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the already worrying situation even further. Data gathered by the Trussell Trust shows that there was a 47% increase in the number of people relying on foodbanks during the first six months of the pandemic compared to the same period last year. It seems families with children have been hardest hit with 2,600 food parcels being provided for children every day.
  • Lucy Upton, Specialist Paediatric Dietitian and Nutritionist   The start of a new year is a good time to consider establishing healthy feeding habits for the year ahead. Toddlers' nutritional requirements differ greatly from those of older children and adults. Rapidly growing and with small stomachs, toddlers require more nutrients in each mouthful of food.
  • Do you find meal planning stressful? Catch up with our very first Instagram Cook Along video series!