Wigan efforts to tackle childhood obesity have been held up as a national role model.
The Local Government Association is highlighting work by the council and partner projects as best practice in its report Healthy Lives, Healthy Futures.
The authority and Inspiring Healthy Lifestyles’ work on the Let’s Get Movin’ – Healthy Habits for Life programme encourages young people to take up exercise and enjoy healthy eating. Launched three years ago when the then leisure trust took up 0 to 17 weight management, the scheme has increased the number of youngsters undergoing the National Child Measurement programme from 77 per cent of year six pupils to 93. It also these days takes responsibility for the specialist weight management service, health promotion work and school intervention and prevention education programmes for schools and nurseries.
Using more positive language when targeting families who need help most has also been credited with getting more people involved in the projects. The family approach encourages collective changes to support a child’s weight loss: firstly in a 12-week intensive intervention with follow-up support such as family swimming or gym membership.
One beneficiary is Erica, who had a BMI of 40-plus when referred to the scheme. She began short walks to build up fitness and was given food shopping and cooking advice to turn her life around. She called staff “guardian angels” for giving her a “second chance in life. The changes I’ve experienced aren’t only physical but mental too. For a long time I avoided mirrors, hating the way I looked but with losing the weight I see more and more of the girl I used to be and that gives me so much hope for me and my future.”