Campaign to target obesity

PUBLISHED: 11:27 15 February 2010 | UPDATED: 16:41 30 June 2010

Parents were today urged to “act now to save your children” as the NHS prepared to target obesity hotspots Great Yarmouth and King's Lynn in a bid to encourage youngsters and families to be fitter and more active.

Parents were today urged to “act now to save your children” as the NHS prepared to target obesity hotspots Great Yarmouth and King's Lynn in a bid to encourage youngsters and families to be fitter and more active.

The NHS in the East of England is staging a host of events in towns across the region to bring the healthy lifestyle message to people in a way that is fun.

The events will include former Norwich City star Craig Fleming going head-to-head with 10-year-old football whizz kid Josh Clancy to see who can do the most “keepy-uppies”.

The Change4Life initiative is triggered by recent figures, taken from the 2008/9 national child measurement programme, which suggest that obesity among young children in the East of England has not improved over the past four years.

In Yarmouth:

t 24.7pc of four and five year olds were classed as either overweight or obese, compared to a regional figure of 21.8pc

t 33.6pc of ten and 11 year olds were either overweight or obese, compared to a regional figure of 30.7pc.

Predictions from a government think tank, Foresight, were that if national obesity trends continued, by 2050 60pc of men and 50pc of women could be clinically obese at a cost to the NHS and the wider economy of £50bn.

Director of public health for NHS East of England, Dr Paul Cosford said: “There are so many simple steps that families with young children can take to adopt a more healthy lifestyle, and we aim to give them some fun ideas at the roadshows. It's important that parents act now to avoid their children risking serious health problems later in life.”

The launch event today at the Market Gates Shopping Centre in Yarmouth will feature the “keepy-uppie” demonstration. Josh can perform more than 4,000 kick ups, as well as a range of freestyle football tricks. Former Canaries captain Fleming is a self-confessed “stopper”.

Fleming said: “As a central defender I never was all that hot on showing off football skills, so I should think Josh will put me to shame.

“But it's a bit of fun and it's great if it persuades some youngsters to take up the game and work at their fitness levels. Change4Life is a fantastic way to sign up to a healthier lifestyle.”

Children from Great Yarmouth's Kuk Sool Won martial arts team, the town's Phoenix Karate Club and Stars and Funky Feet schools of dance will be providing displays throughout the day to give children a taster of some ways to keep fit.

The roadshows will be launched at Yarmouth today, with one at King's Lynn's Vancouver Centre on Wednesday.

Parents Lorraine and Andrew Underwood knew they had to act to change their family's lifestyle when their son Oliver drew a picture of himself with the heading: “All my friends are winners and I'm a loser”.

The family, from Gorleston, signed up to the Great Yarmouth and Waveney Primary Care Trust's Mind, Exercise, Nutrition..Do it! Programme (Mend).

Before Oliver, who was nine in January, attended the programme he was self conscious about his body and lacked confidence.

Mrs Underwood said: “His self esteem was really, really low. Whatever we did we couldn't persuade him to feel good about himself and he was being bullied.

“Since he's been on the programme he's a different boy. He went shopping with his birthday money, picked himself a fashionable shirt and jacket and for the first time said he felt really cool.”

Oliver and his family - including sister Amy, 14 - attended twice-weekly classes for 10 weeks between October and Christmas to learn about how to make informed choices about food and exercise.

Mrs Underwood added: “Oliver hated PE, now he loves doing exercise. He now has fresh carrots, peppers, cucumber, apples - everything he wouldn't eat before.

“He doesn't want crisps any more and he only has sweets once a week as a treat on a Saturday. The thing is, we've done it as a family, which is what Change4Life is all about”.

t To find out more about Mend, contact programme manager Steph Edrich on 01493 852207, or e-mail

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