Cllr Rezina Chowdhury blogs about Labour’s plans to for a healthier Lambeth
Back in 2014 I became a councillor for the first time. Not only that, but I started working in public health as my day job. So, it is that during these last four years, I have been able to see what makes a good public health initiative and the difference it can make in improving the lives of both young and old, and those in between.
One particular area of importance is Childhood obesity. This is one of the top public health challenges for this generation. From the National Child Measurement Programme data we know that the prevalence of obesity more than doubles from Reception to Year 6.
Evidence also shows there is a link between obesity and those living in the most financially deprived areas. For example the obesity prevalence among children in Reception living in the most deprived areas was 12.7% compared with 5.8% among those living in the least deprived areas. In Year 6 these figures were 26.3% and 11.4% respectively.
Weight can be difficult to lose once gained, and consequently obese children are much more likely to become obese adults. Obesity is a leading cause of serious diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers. These conditions incur a huge cost to the long term health and wellbeing of the individual, the NHS and the wider economy.
As our manifesto states, good health isn’t confined to the GP surgery. We all have a responsibility to ensure that our children can lead healthy, happy and fulfilling lives. By integrating our care services with the NHS we can ensure that public health considerations are at the forefront of all our decision making as a council.
I’m proud that Lambeth has such a strong record on childhood obesity. We were the only borough in the country to have shown a consistent reduction in overweight children at year 6 during the past 7 years. Promotion of breast feeding, a well-designed schools healthy weight programme and work with frontline staff to deliver messages on eating and lifestyles have – according to a recent Public Health England evaluation – all played a key role in turning the tide on childhood obesity in Lambeth.
But we know there is much more still to do. That’s why we will work to further cut childhood obesity by spending the Sugar Levy cash to focus on healthy outcomes. The £350,000 allocated to Lambeth is a significant sum. Over the coming months we will be sitting down with schools to plan out how we can get the most from the money.
We will also be adopting the Daily Mile (i.e. all children walk at least a mile a day in school) to ensure that children stay physically active. We will be waging war on fatty food and drink across the borough and will pioneer the new ‘healthy high streets’.
We want to encourage children to play in our parks and playgrounds, both for fun and to stay physically active. At the same time, we also want to be certain that our children are protected from tobacco smoke and the risks of passive smoking. Therefore, I am delighted that we’ll be introducing a ban on smoking in Lambeth’s playgrounds.
There is so much more we want to do. But this is definitely a step in the right direction.
Cllr Rezina Chowdhury, Labour Councillor for Streatham Hill ward