THE BLOG

A Whole Generation Could be Saved

24/06/2014 11:06 BST | Updated 23/08/2014 10:59 BST

A whole generation could be saved from a future of poor health and limited opportunities.

So say the Coalition Government!! However, unlike a lot of announcements - this promise came backed with cash! From the Big Lottery!

Tens of thousands of babies who might be at risk of health problems, unemployment or criminal activity later in life are to benefit from a £215 million Big Lottery Fund investment.

Five areas in England - Lambeth, Southend, Nottingham, Blackpool and Bradford - have been awarded up to £50 million each as part of a 10-year test to decide the best methods for laying the foundations to improve the future health, social and educational outcomes of nought to three-year-olds.

I find the most compelling element of this investment is that it is there to explore [and hopefully find] what methods actually works and learn from those. Inevitably, other geographic areas can copy the good stuff instead of wasting money reinventing the wheel.

As anyone connected with www.grub4life.com knows that what happens in a child's first three years profoundly affects their future. Take nutrition, when young children start off on a diet of junk food we know they grow up to be fat adults with more heart disease, diabetes and cancer than their thinner counterparts. They become less efficient workers and cost our NHS billions in health care.

Good nutrition needs to start at the very beginning - it really is the foundation for good health and good learning. Thankfully, the Big Lottery recognises the fundamental role that a child's diet plays in shaping what type of adults our kids will grow into and is investing in making things better.

I wanted to know more about how it's going to work so I spoke to a couple of the Boroughs benefiting from the grants.

I spoke to Elaine Hammans from Southend Borough Council about the funding, she said "We've had a big focus on nutrition and invested a lot of resources to help parents really understand the difference good nutrition makes to their kids. With this funding we can go onto to test how well each element of our nutrition projects works and then share it- we see this as real chance to help improve the lives of a whole generation, not just children in Southend".

Another Elaine, this time Elaine Simpson is the Chair of the National Children's Bureau and is from Lambeth arm of the project. She told me "We're incredibly excited to be part of what we believe is one of the most innovative investment programmes in recent years, part of our focus will be on reducing domestic violence rates and strengthening families."

And over in Blackpool, the NSPCC will be working with the local council and NHS to develop an Early Years Development Centre of Excellence. The Blackpool team has been tackling exceptionally high levels of smoking rates and alcohol use during pregnancy as well as a high incidence of mental health problems in families with young children. When I spoke to NSPCC Chief Executive Peter Wanless he told me "This funding will mean more support for struggling parents, greater resources for families and improved prospects for babies."

In tough economic times like these I really believe that we have to think about getting the biggest bang for our buck when it comes to research funds. I feel we need more projects like this which focus on results and can be replicated for maximum affect. I'll be keeping an eye on the projects and keep you updated!