Back in February I expressed my concerns that the Government's efforts to tackle the childhood obesity epidemic completely ignored babies and toddlers.
You can imagine my delight, then, that The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on a Fit and Healthy Childhood is urging the Government to promote physical activity in Early Years in its Child Obesity Strategy.
In its report, ‘Physical Activity in Early Childhood’, the APPG - made up a group of MPS and peers - says 'facilitating and funding physical activity in early childhood is a not an optional extra, but an essential cornerstone of a fit and healthy adult society'.
It also states: "No ‘Child Obesity Strategy’ succeeds without strong physical activity content and research finds that physical activity from the earliest days has positive outcomes for emotional, social, academic and cognitive growth as well as bodily health."
The group makes a number of recommendations, drawing upon examples of best practice, to encourage increased physical activity for children from Early Years onwards.
Among the APPG's recommendations are:
- an increased emphasis on the importance of physical activity across the EYFS
- the creation of a Healthy Early Years Awards scheme to promote and enhance the progression of physical development and physical activity within the EYFS
- the EYFS to contain a statutory requirement for physical development and activity, rather than the current recommended requirement
- a professional body be developed as an ‘umbrella’ organisation to support early years physical development/physical activity professionals
- the establishment of an Early Years physical development/physical activity taskforce to inform and drive policy and practice in this field
- funding be made available for training for Early Years practitioners in physical activity
- cohesive, unified research to be commissioned regarding the benefits of physical activity in a child from birth onwards
- an in-depth analysis of the important role baby and infant swimming has to play in helping to achieve physical, cognitive and emotional goals
According to the Government nearly a third of children aged two to 15 are overweight or obese and younger generations are becoming obese at earlier ages and staying obese for longer.
Reducing obesity levels will save lives and money - it's estimated the NHS in England spent £5.1 billion on overweight and obesity-related ill-health in 2014/15.
Just this month (November) it was revealed that Britain has the worst obesity problem in Western Europe.
Obesity rates in the UK have nearly doubled since the early 1990s, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
A staggering 27% of the British population is now obese - putting the UK sixth highest in a league table of the 34 OECD nations.
The last report published two years ago put the UK in 10th place and, scarily, the OECD predicts 40% of people in Britain will be obese by 2030.
We need to hammer home the message that a balanced diet combined with exercise is essential for a healthy lifestyle and it's never too early to put it into practice.
The APPG report seeks to influence the performance of Government to better address issues relating to physical activity in early childhood.
I hope politicians take heed of the excellent recommendations.