2healthyeatingA free, fun programme designed to help children, young people and their families make positive changes to their diet and enjoy a healthier lifestyle has been developed and rolled out by North Yorkshire County Council.

Called Healthy Choices, the free programme aims to tackle one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st Century – childhood obesity. Current data collected through the National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) shows that in England one in five children aged 4-5 is overweight or obese, a figure that increases to one in three by the age of 10-11.

“Healthy Choices is an important part of North Yorkshire County Council’s Healthy Child Programme,” said County Councillor Janet Sanderson, Executive Member for Children’s Services. “It offers a fun and bespoke family-focussed package of support for children and young people who are above a healthy weight. Places on the programme are totally free and can be booked either through health professionals such as Healthy Child Teams (HCTs) and GPs or by the family themselves.

“The aim of the new Healthy Choices service is to help children and young people work towards achieving – and then maintaining – a healthy weight by providing them and their family with the tools and information to make positive, and realistic, changes in their habits, helping them to start enjoying a healthier way of living. Importantly, the emphasis is on family fun rather than a strict diet regime.”

The NCMP involves the annual weighing and measuring of children in Reception and Year 6, in their schools, by HCTs. North Yorkshire County Council has commissioned Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust to deliver the NCMP across the county and the HCTs provide a proactive feedback phone call to parents or carers of children who are found to be over or under a healthy weight, before they receive a letter outlining the results of the measurements.

The purpose of the call is to tell the parent or carer about their child’s result and provides an opportunity to discuss what the new programme can offer them. It also gives them the chance to discuss the results and talk about any concerns. Each family that goes on to take part in the programme is offered a free 12-week programme, which is delivered locally by a healthy lifestyle advisor within the family home or at a community setting.

During the programme, families take part in a range of interactive sessions based on key lifestyle topics, such as the Eatwell Guide and portion size and how to be more active in everyday life. They also complete weekly challenges and set their own personal goals to help them on their journey.  

After completion of the 12-week programme, families are offered continued support and guidance through motivational phone calls and follow-up appointments, helping them stay on track.

“Although the Healthy Choices programme service is in its early stages, the initial feedback we are getting is very positive indeed,” said County Councillor David Chance, Executive Member for Stronger Communities and Public Health.

“One hundred per cent of the young people and their families the teams talked to after completing the 12-week course said that they would recommend the service to others. The advisors have found that families really benefit from taking on the tips and guidance they give and as it’s a bespoke service they can tailor the programme to make sure it is suitable, fun and enjoyable for each family.

“Parents tell us they find the initial phone call informative as they weren’t always aware what services were available in their local community. One parent explained her daughter was worried about her transition to secondary school. This led to a member of the HCT team arranging to meet them both, completing a health assessment and talking about healthy eating and physical activity, body image and anxiety. In another example, a parent was concerned about her child’s growth, but after a conversation about the child’s diet and physical activity levels, the parent felt reassured she could access support and advice from her local HCT.”

For more information about the Healthy Choices programme and about how to book a place on the programme, contact the team on 01609 798081. For families who don’t qualify for the Healthy Choice programme, there’s still support available from the national Change4life initiative – go to www.nhs.uk/change4life to find out more.

The Healthy Choices programme is part of a wider commitment by North Yorkshire County Council to tackle obesity. It is about to hold a public consultation on its draft Healthy Weight, Active Lives weight management strategy and full details about this are on line at www.northyorks.gov.uk/hwhl