THE BLOG

Your Vote Counts in the Fight Against Obesity!

29/04/2015 11:36 BST | Updated 28/06/2015 10:59 BST

Well - it's a big hurrah from me and my colleagues at Grub4Life. We welcome today's evidence that the first phase of the obesity epidemic takes place in the early years. The early years nutrition experts call for mandatory food standards in childcare and higher standards of nutrition education for childcare professionals.

The research published in the International Journal of Obesity showed that the likelihood of toddlers developing obesity is largely governed by their parents and that fat parents are more likely to nurture fat toddlers. In teenagers parents influence reduces and obesity prediction is driven by exposure to fizzy drinks and other foods high in empty calories.

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Prof Terence Wilkin, of Exeter University, who led the study, said: "Childhood obesity is one of the greatest health issues of our time. If we are to develop strategies to intervene effectively, we must first understand the cause. This study indicates for the first time that childhood obesity has different causes, depending on the age of the child."

My team and I at Grub4Life have long championed the link between the early years and long term health. We have also identified that childcare professionals are key in helping to change parent's attitudes to their children's diets. As the extended family becomes a thing of the past new Mums don't have a grandmother or aunt close by to go to for advice. It's the early educators and childminders who offer the support network parents need. But, sadly there is no guarantee that these Early Years' professional have the nutritional knowledge you'd expect to give parents accurate, practical advice and support.

And - even worse - we found that they had few professionals they could turn to!

In a survey we completed in 2011 with the Dietetian's Trade Magazine - NHD we asked Dietitians throughout the UK - what they knew about Early Years' nutrition. Unfortunately - the response was quite poor - specialist information of this sort is not taught widely to Dietitians.

But - NHD readers overwhelmingly called upon the Government to set minimum levels for salt, fats sugars and calories for Britain's Early Years Children. Currently, there are no minimum standards set for EYC or any nutritional training for childcare staff in Great Britain. The current legislation assumes there is a nutritional 'common sense amongst Early Years professionals and Children Centre Cooks. But if that 'common sense' isn't shared amongst Dietitians, then what help can there be for the overworked EY professionals? In the words of one Children's Centre manager I spoke to "If the professionals aren't sure - how are mums, dads and carers meant to be able to feed our children properly?"

We've continually worked to improve standards of nutrition training for Childcare professionals- conventional NVQ training for childcare professionals contains limited elements of nutrition- at the same time nurseries and childcare centres only have voluntary guidelines to help them ensure the food they serve is right for children under five (unlike primary and secondary schools where nutritional standards are mandatory).

But today's announcement couldn't come at a better time - days before the General Election we all have an opportunity to put forward our views and let our politicians know that we want the next Government to acknowledges the opportunity that Early Years Childcare provides to improve health, social outcomes and of course save the NHS billions of pounds in treating the long term effects of obesity.

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Your vote will count!