MEND, a New Programme in Wales to Fight Obesity in Children

by Gopalan on  January 14, 2009 at 9:25 AM Child Health News
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 MEND, a New Programme in Wales to Fight Obesity in Children
The Welsh Assembly Government in the UK is to launch MEND, a special programme to combat obesity in children.

The MEND - Mind, Exercise, Nutrition ... Do It! - courses will be run by dieticians and fitness instructors and will be held across Wales from this month.

The programme uses an interactive learning approach to teach children and parents weight management skills. This includes inspiring families to adopt a healthier lifestyle and enjoy preparing and eating healthy foods as well as reading food labels and healthy shopping on a budget.

The courses also contain sessions which focus on making exercise fun again, particularly for those children who are not fans of traditional school sports.

During the two-hour sessions, which are held twice a week, families are taught how to improve their eating and exercise habits, in a bid to improve their children's fitness, physical activity levels, nutrition and self-esteem.

Aimed at overweight seven to 13-year-olds and their families the courses provide free advice on eating and exercise.

Children who have taken part in the courses have seen their body mass index fall by 1.3% after 10 weeks.

They are also active for an hour more every day.

The Welsh Assembly Government has provided the funding to give up to 450 families from across the country the opportunity to take part in the 10-week courses.

It is hoped that councils will fund the programme from 2011 onwards.

NHS dieticians are working with qualified fitness instructors from local councils to run the courses, Wales Online reports.

Claire Baber, a dietician based in Abergavenny, who is the MEND programme manager for the courses in Newport, Pontypool and Ebbw Vale, said: "Children who are overweight don't have much self-esteem or confidence and therefore won't go out and join sports clubs because they don't want to be the unhealthiest one there and the one who can't run as fast as the others.

"But in MEND they are all the same - they all do fitness classes together and they are also involved in discussions about food and eating."

The MEND programme is the UK's largest healthy lifestyle programme for overweight children and their parents. Rather than focusing on weight loss,

It is estimated that 22% of boys and 17% of girls in Wales are either overweight or obese - between 1996 and 2001 the UK proportion of overweight children increased by 7% and obese children by 3.5%.

If the current childhood obesity levels continue to rise by next year one in four people in the UK will be obese. Children who are overweight or obese are more likely to become obese adults, putting them at greater risk of a range of diseases, including cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

Wales is already seeing children being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, a condition which used to be associated with overweight over-40s.

Ms Baber added: "The MEND programme can really change families' lives.

"We offer a friendly, relaxed atmosphere to encourage children to give new things a go and show parents how they can be supportive and involve the whole family in making healthier choices and follow an active lifestyle.

"Children become healthier and fitter while their self-esteem and confidence increase greatly. We very much hope families will take up the chance to improve their health with this fantastic free course."

Source: Medindia

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