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   As social distancing policies are put in place, and schools and nurseries shut their doors indefinitely, keeping your toddlers entertained and active for hours on end during COVID-19 may seem daunting and at times virtually impossible! Parents and carers have been thrown into a cozy and chaotic ‘new normal’ and may wonder how they can meet the recommended three hours a day of physical activity for under-fives who are walking. But do not panic, the Infant & Toddler Forum are here to help make sure you have plenty of ideas to keep your toddler happy and entertained whilst encouraging physical activity.
  • Dr Gill Harris, Consultant Paediatric Clinical Psychologist   In today's digital age, it is no surprise that the amount of screen time suitable for children is a highly debated topic, with the subject regularly dominating media headlines. Children are spending more time than ever before immersed in screens from a very young age; this includes time spent watching television, playing a video game, or using an electronic device with a screen (such as a smartphone or tablet). While evidence is still limited as to the effects, it is thought that screen time affects sleep, interactive play and obesity - but it is not yet clear which type of screen time and when screen time might have the most impact. In our latest blog post, we examine the evidence and aim to provide clarity on how much is too much when it comes to screen time.
  • 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.