Young people have their say on tackling childhood obesity

Victoria Gilroy and Wendy Burke with young people involved in the project, Abbie Armstrong, Alex Harrison, Oscar Daniel, Amy Bell and Bethan Corner.
Victoria Gilroy and Wendy Burke with young people involved in the project, Abbie Armstrong, Alex Harrison, Oscar Daniel, Amy Bell and Bethan Corner.

Work is being carried out with young people to help reduce obesity in future generations.

Estimates show that by 2050, 70 per cent of girls and 55 per cent of boys aged 11 to 15 could be overweight or obese.

Academics at Northumbria University have carried out a review of existing research into obesity in young people and conducted their own research with young people in North Tyneside.

The research, funded by the Burdett Trust for Nursing, showed young people felt they did not have enough information on healthy eating and healthy lifestyles and the information that was available was not easy to understand.

As a result, a training pack has been produced for school nurses to help them work with young people at secondary-school level on healthy eating.

The pack includes a short film featuring young people expressing the views on the research, games and a motivational film, while an app, Health in hand, is also being developed.

Victoria Gilroy, senior lecturer in specialist community public health nursing at Northumbria University, said: “Obesity in young people is a serious public-health issue and one which is predicted to get significantly worse, without any intervention.”

Wendy Burke, North Tyneside Council’s director of public health, added: “We are delighted to work in partnership with Northumbria University on this project. We have an epidemic of obesity in the UK. It is crucial that we engage with young people on healthy eating and healthy choices to turn the tide.”

She added: “We live in an obesogenic environment which means it is now much more difficult to maintain a healthy weight than it is to be overweight or obese.

“It has never been more important to tackle this to ensure future generations have long and healthy lives. If we equip young people, future parents, with the knowledge and information to make healthy choices we can help break the obesity cycle.

“Tackling this issue is tough and no one organisation can do it on their own; we all need to work together for the sake of our future generations and we need to involve young people.”

The film features pupils from John Spence School and from North Tyneside’s Young People’s project.

Young Mayor Oscar Daniel, 13, said: “We were asked to create our own cartoon images for the film which were animated and then we recorded a voiceover to sum up all the views from the research. It was great fun to make and really gets across young people’s views.”

Bethan Corner, 16, from Whitley Bay, has been part of the Young Person’s board for six years.

She said: “It’s great to have been involved in this project from the start. We’ve all really enjoyed it and learned a lot ourselves.

“They’ve really listened to and involved young people all the way, which is crucial if it is going to work.

“Eating healthily and exercising is not always the easy option and there’s not enough information out there to help us.

“Schools play a really important role as we are there five days a week and they can be a big influence so it’s good that school nurses are being trained too.”