Trailblazer programme will help children to stay healthy

This story was published 28 January 2019

A three-year programme that helps councils to lead innovative action in their local communities to tackle childhood obesity will soon be underway in North Yorkshire.

The North Yorkshire bid is to implement a Healthy School Zone

The rollout of the programme – called the Childhood Obesity Trailblazer Programme - follows North Yorkshire County Council’s successful bid for funding to be part of the initiative, which is managed by the Local Government Association.

This was a highly competitive process. The County Council was one of 10 successful bidders out of 102 councils who put in expression of interest bids. It was chosen for its focused and innovative approach of creating a healthy environment within the school zone. The bids were were scored by representatives from the Department of Health and Social Care, Public Health England and the LGA with Ministerial sign-off of the final recommendation.

The North Yorkshire bid is to implement a Healthy School Zone which will assess and modify the school zone environment (400m radius around the school) by looking at influences on healthy weight such as provision of unhealthy versus healthy foods; takeaways; food outlets; and opportunities and barriers to physical activity.

In keeping with national trends about a fifth of children in North Yorkshire are above a healthy weight when they start school at the age of four. This rises to about a third of children by the time they leave primary school – which can impact on physical and mental health and reduce healthy life expectancy.

County Councillor Caroline Dickinson, Executive Member for Public Health said: “We are delighted to be able to take part in the Trailblazer Programme. It will help us build on the work we are already doing through our Healthy Weight Healthy Lives Strategy and will include contribution from the Healthy Child Programme, and in particular our Healthy Choices initiative.”

The Healthy Choices service is funded and delivered by the County Council and provides a free, confidential family-focused package of support for children and young people aged four to 19 years who are above a healthy weight for their age and height.

“Healthy Choices is not about telling families what to do,” said Cllr Dickinson, “but it is about empowering them with the tools and knowledge to make positive, realistic and achievable changes.”

Each family accepted by the Healthy Choices service is offered a 12-week personalised programme in their home or local community venue, during which they take part in fun and interactive sessions and are helped to make small and realistic changes to their diet and lifestyle.

All this is done in a non-judgemental, supportive way. After completion of the 12-week programme families are offered continued support and guidance through motivational phone calls and follow-up appointments, helping them to stay on track.

“Healthy Choices is an important part of our Healthy Child Programme,” said County Councillor Janet Sanderson, Executive Member for Children’s Services. “It offers a fun and bespoke family-focused package of support for children and young people who are above a healthy weight and places on the programme are free.

“The aim of the Healthy Choices service is to help children and young people work towards achieving – and then maintaining – a healthy weight by providing them and their family with the tools and information to make positive, and realistic, changes in their habits, helping them to start enjoying a healthier way of living. Importantly, the emphasis is on family fun rather than a strict diet regime.”

The County Council’s next step is to meet other successful bidders to discuss its plans to make best use of the funding award and build on its childhood obesity work so far.