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Island’s plan to tackle childhood obesity launched 22 January 2013

Dawn Henley, Public Health StrategistThe Isle of Man Government has today launched the Island’s ‘Plan for Tackling Childhood Overweight and Obesity in the Isle of Man’. The Department of Health, as part of the Sport and Healthy Schools Partnership, has led the development of the Plan which aims to ensure that all children and young people in the Isle of Man can grow up with a healthy weight, through eating well and enjoying being active.

Minister for Health, David Anderson MHK, said:

“With the launch of the Plan, the Department recognises that addressing not just the problems associated with the increasing number of children who are overweight or obese in the Isle of Man, but the underlying causes, is a complex issue. Working as part of the Sport and Healthy Schools Partnership, we can take a co-ordinated approach across Government to protect and promote the well-being of the family, and in particular, children.

“We know that unhealthy diets and a lack of physical activity have contributed to the growth of childhood obesity in England and the trend is similar here in the Island. Children’s lifestyles have become increasingly inactive, with them choosing entertainment such as television and computer games, instead of outdoor activities. When combined with dietary choices such as convenience foods, which are often high in fat and sugar, this means that more children and young people are at risk of becoming overweight or obese. Encouraging breastfeeding is an important component of this strategy and we aim to try to increase the rate of breastfeeding for at least 3 months over the next 5 years.

“This work again underlines the Department of Health’s strategic commitment to preventing ill-health rather than simply treating ill-health. This will ensure that children and young people have the opportunity to grow up with a healthy weight, through eating well and enjoying being active, and will contribute towards making a difference and improving the quality of life for future generations in the Isle of Man.”

Obesity is a major public health concern. The causes are complex and the consequences to society are far reaching. Being overweight or obese is mostly preventable through lifestyle changes. The long-term approach presented in the Plan is to reduce prevalence in childhood, by promoting the benefits of breast-feeding, increasing physical activity levels, and improving diet.

The Isle of Man Health and Lifestyle Survey which took place in 2009 found that 50.4% of adults were overweight, with 15.9% being obese. In 2012, in the Isle of Man, 7.1% of Reception class children were obese and a further 12.6% were overweight. Data collected in the Isle of Man closely reflects overweight and obesity rates in the UK, because lifestyle behaviours and dietary patterns so closely resemble those of the UK.

The success of the Plan depends on the relationships built across Government, at both strategic and operational levels, between the Departments of Health; Education and Children; Community, Culture and Leisure and Infrastructure.

Dr Paul Emerson, Consultant in Public Health Medicine, said:

“The number of children who are overweight or obese is increasing, here in the Isle of Man as well as in the UK. This is a public health concern because of the health risks involved. Obesity in childhood is associated with an increased risk of many diseases and conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, joint pain, eating disorders, depression and asthma. If we are to achieve one of the key outcomes of the Isle of Man Children’s Plan, ‘Being Healthy’, and the Strategy for the Future of Health Services in the Isle of Man, the issues of weight, diet and exercise need to be tackled at all levels, through integrated support from across Government.”

The Plan looks at:

  • Understanding the local trends of weight and height in children and young people, by collecting and analysing data
  • Preventing children and young people from becoming overweight or obese, through promoting healthy eating, physical activity and raising awareness
  • Management of existing cases of overweight and obese children and young people, with appropriate and effective care pathways
  • Ensuring strategic planning includes focussing on overweight and obesity prevention, building on the partnership approach.

A copy of the Plan can be downloaded from the following page: www.gov.im/health/services/Public_Health/Service_Improvement/strategies.xml

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