Thanks to the media and the likes of celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, the state of our children’s health has become an increasingly important issue on the public health agenda.
Obesity in children has escalated in England over the past 20 years. Obesity can lead to a number of chronic diseases such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. It has been predicted that, if the current upward trend in childhood obesity continues, children will have a shorter life expectancy than their parents, potentially reversing the gains of the last century.
The state of our health is related not only to our long-term physical well-being but also to emotional and social factors – our general happiness, confidence and outlook on life. There is also a clear relationship between health and educational attainment. Poor health deters educational success and educational achievement strongly affects social and economic prospects and choices about health.
Healthy living for Early Years
In order to be healthy, children and young people ideally need a family, a home, some friends, somewhere to play, a future and access to treatment and support services. Eco-Schools dovetails with the Healthy Schools programme and Every Child Matters. If the centre is already working through the Healthy Schools programme, this work can be included within your Eco-Schools action plan.
Children’s centres play a significant role in delivering these outcomes. Environments that encourage healthy eating and active living are vitally important. Children’s centres are key to promoting the health and well-being of young people and the wider community in the following ways. They can:
Provide children with structure and consistency and opportunities for social engagement
Provide emotional support and create a supportive, safe environment that will give children the confidence to learn
Actively promote health through the curriculum and in the way the centre is managed both in its culture and ethos
Influence the quality of the food eaten within the centre and provide healthier options for children through fruit breaks and fresh water or fruit drinks
Encourage children and staff to be more physically active both in and out of the centre
Help equip children with the knowledge, skills and attitudes which provide springboards to future long-term health.