A new Active Schools programme has been launched at two schools in Babergh and Mid Suffolk, aiming to increase physical activity in primary schools and combat rising childhood obesity.
The project, run in partnership with NHS West Suffolk and NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) will run for three years with the support of Active Suffolk, the Active Partnership for Suffolk dedicated to increasing the number of people taking part in sport and physical activity.
15% of children in Babergh and Mid Suffolk districts are obese, with even more living with excess weight and the associated health risks that this presents. Addressing this problem at a young age will help children live longer, happier and healthier lives, reducing future healthcare costs and improving quality of life.
In addition to the £16k p.a. primary schools in Suffolk receive from the Department for Education to support physical activity delivery, the Active Schools programme seeks to provide targeted support with bespoke solutions for the schools taking part.
The launch events were held at the first two primary schools to be taking part so far in this programme, one in Mid Suffolk and one in Babergh. The schools that are launching the programme are:
Over the course over the three years the project aims to engage with 20 more schools across Babergh and Mid Suffolk to take part. Active Suffolk are already working closely with 10 additional schools, with more expected to join the programme in the coming months.
The three year project will be funded by Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils and the NHS West Suffolk and NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk CCGs. The CCGs are each providing £15,000 to fund the first year of the project, with the District Councils putting forward £25,000 each over two years to fund the second and third, for a total of £80,000 funding across all three years to 2022.
Insights gained in the first year will inform how the project is delivered in the following years.
Cllr Derek Davis, Babergh District Council’s Cabinet Member for Communities, said: “Too often we have an outdated romantic idea that rural childhood is all about climbing trees and playing football with jerseys as goalposts, but the truth is modern childhood is a lot more sedentary. With desks in school and TVs and video games at home, a lot of children don’t get much opportunity for physical activity and this programme is an excellent opportunity to address that. It won’t be a simple or easy process, but this project is an excellent place to start and I can’t wait to see the result Active Suffolk can achieve.”
Cllr Julie Flatman, Mid Suffolk District Council’s Cabinet Member for Communities and Housing, said: “Tackling childhood obesity isn’t just about reducing long term health care costs, it’s also about giving children the chance of a healthier, happier life. This funding could make all the difference to these pupils, as well as giving us valuable insights into the best way to help children live more physically active lives over the coming years.”
Richard Watson, deputy chief officer, NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk and NHS West Suffolk CCGs, said: “We will do everything we can do to support our partners with programmes to help our young people keep active and maintain a healthy weight.
“Developing good lifestyle habits at an early age – like eating well and taking regular physical activity - gives young people the very best chance of enjoying a healthy and happy adulthood.
“Childhood obesity increases not only physical health risks, like Type 2 diabetes, but mental health conditions such as low self-esteem, and overweight children are more likely to be bullied.
“We welcome the opportunity to provide funding and work in partnership with the councils and Active Suffolk.”
John Clough, Director of Active Suffolk, said: “Active Suffolk is delighted to be delivering the Active Schools project, which aims to increase activity levels and support the maintenance of a healthy weight in young people. Data from the National Child Measurement Programme has for a number of years shown on average around a 9% increase in the number of children with excess weight from Reception year to Year 6, a risk factor that has the potential to impact on health and wellbeing throughout the life course. This project aims to provide targeted interventions to improve the health and wellbeing of a significant number of young people, both in the short and long term.”