CHILDREN would be given free skipping ropes and compulsory cookery classes under a health chief’s radical call to beat the obesity crisis.
Dr Frances Howie, assistant director of public health at NHS Worcestershire, says “we cannot carry on as we are” in attempting to beat the bulge epidemic.
She has outlined a number of ideas to encourage healthier lifestyles including: l Asking primary schools to give all children skipping ropes to encourage them to exercise; l Making cookery classes in schools compulsory to promote healthier eating; l Making sure new buildings come with car parks “three- quarters of a mile away” so workers are forced to walk at least some distance to get in.
As your Worcester News revealed last week, half of Worcestershire’s population is now either overweight or obese.
Dr Howie appeared before a meeting of Worcester City Council’s scrutiny committee to take part in a Q&A with politicians and outline the proposals. She said: “If we don’t get it right, in the years to come all we’ll end up dealing with is overweight people and those who suffer from alcohol abuse.
“If we do get things right over the next 25 years we will see all those problems pulled back, much more assistive technology and many more people living at home than would otherwise be the case in their later years.
“We need people to take better care of their health so we get rid of lifestyle- related disease, which is the worrying trend emerging from this new generation for the first time.”
During the debate Councillor Roger Berry, the Mayor of Worcester, said the county was “fiddling while Rome burns”.
“There is so much poverty about and society is becoming increasingly unequal – without decent homes and salaries for people, young children have even less chance of being healthy,” he said.
“Cookery classes are all very good, but if you’re stuck in a B&B and homeless, it won’t help.”
Dr Howie said: “Everyone I speak to at the county council understands we can’t go on as we are, so I’m optimistic.
“The link to obesity and poverty is well known. We’ve got to engage a society which thinks cooking is something only chefs do on television.”
Figures show 115,990 people in Worcestershire are obese, including 20,779 five to 14-year-olds.
In April, Worcestershire County Council takes over responsibility for public health.