Health Advisor

As Health Advisor for the Poplar Partnership it has been important to understand the general locality and population in each of the schools I serve.  This has meant undertaking a mapping exercise to determine what is happening in the area around obesity and physical activity.  There is considerable evidence in each of the five schools of active inclusive policies and actions where obesity is being targeted through after school clubs, breakfast clubs, physical activities, targeted parental interventions aimed at improving the overall health and wellbeing of children who are either overweight or obese.  National weight and height measurements are in place for reception and year 6 children.  All actions are targeting prevention and treatment in accordance with NICE guidance and recommendations from Healthy Lives, Healthy People.  All schools are members of Healthy Schools and are in varying stages in the process of achieving Advanced Healthy School Status.  This requires the schools to demonstrate healthy eating and increased physical activity as well as other issues.The concept of prevention rather than cure should be the emphasis wherever possible; keeping obesity and overweight from occurring in the first place must be a primary concern.  This is why the government set its target to be the first major nation to tackle and reverse rising obesity in the population, focusing specifically on children; aiming to reduce the obesity levels to the 2000 levels by 2020.

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There are specified actions occurring to prevent obesity and inactivity becoming the norm for all school children attending the schools within the Poplar Partnership.  However, there is still much scope for further interventions particularly with regard to parental engagement and individual work with specific children. 

NICE (2006), The Foresight Report (2007), Healthy Lives and Healthy People suggest prevention should be targeted specifically at pregnant women and infants and have recommended children with specific risk factors should be identified from infancy in order to educate the family and prevent these children from becoming obese or overweight.  A number of specific recommendations have been identified in The Foresight Report and NICE guidelines for development in reaching the targets the United Kingdom Government has set by 2020.  

These recommendations are:-

1)    Develop Partnership working within the local community.  This means planned and localised approaches and strategies can be developed which promote the needs of the local population.  As health Advisor for the Poplar Partnership I have begun the process of making contacts within the local area with both statutory and non-statutory services and organisations.  This has included working with some charities to see how we can develop working partnerships which help address the issue of obesity.

 

2)    Involve parents and carers.  According to the Foresight report interventions are more likely to be successful when a whole family engagement to changing behaviors occurs.  Each School identified parental engagement as a key factor in the work the Health Advisor needed to engage with in their schools.  I have begun by setting up coffee mornings in three schools and am beginning to get parents involved in organising these coffee mornings.This is particularly important in the early years settings where behaviour change is more likely to occur as a whole family approach to health and well-being.

 

3)    Work with individual children has also been described as an effective strategy for engagement.  At Langdon Park, several children have been referred for weight management.  One child self-referred due to weight issues. Working with the school, I have been able to offer sessions with this young person empowering her to make behavioral changes which will help maintain a healthy weight.  We have begun discussion about setting up a small group for nurturing the young people in the same circumstances as this young person.

 

4)    Tackling obesity needs to be a multi- pronged.  Firstly targeting prevention is very important and priority should be given to targeting from Birth upwards.  Secondly, we need to provide education and prevention to those children who are identified as being at risk of becoming obese or overweight in nursery.  Providing obese and overweight children and adults with the behavioral tools to make appropriate changes to their diet and obesiogenic environment and prevention of ill health related to obesity.

healthadvisor@thepoplarpartnership.org.uk