Charity to work with deprived areas to improve children's health

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The British Heart Foundation has committed 1.2m to help deprived areas in the UK cut children's risk of heart disease.

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Under its new Hearty Lives Projects, the charity will work on seven projects with children and families in Liverpool, Manchester, Wolverhampton, Glasgow, Inverclyde and Renfrewshire iover the next six months.

The projects, funded through the British Heart Foundation’s Hearty Lives Programme, will run in partnership with local authorities, the NHS and non-profit organisations and use a range of interventions to tackle lifestyle trends that are contributing to children becoming overweight or obese.

One project will fund a maternity dietician to offer post-natal support to mothers. This will include exercise classes, sessions on health and nutrition and cooking classes delivered through celebrity chef Jamie Oliver's Ministry of Food programme.

The investment comes as a new report published by the charity in partnership with Oxford University, highlights children's poor diets and inactive lifestyles, which the British Heart Foundation warns could lead to children in Britain facing serious health dangers later in life.

The report is based on statistics from a number of studies into children’s medical and behavioural risk factors associated with heart disease.

Within the report, the authors refer to research carried out by the BHF and Oxford University in 2010, which found that 80 per cent of children are not eating the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables per day.

Another study into children’s eating habits by the Scottish Health Executive shows that in 2010/11, 49 per cent of children aged two-15 ate sweets or chocolates once a day or more, and 34 per cent had cake twice or more a week.

The report also highlights children’s increasingly sedentary lifestyles and refers to the 2008 Health Survey for England (HSE), which revealed that less 30 per cent of girls and boys at age four were meeting physical activity recommendations.

Simon Gillespie, chief executive of the BHF, said, ‘These figures are a warning that many of our children are in grave danger of developing coronary heart disease in the future if they continue to live the same lifestyle. This is simply unacceptable.

‘But we can’t act alone. Local decision makers need to identify the children and young people at greatest risk of poor health in their communities and take steps to help them improve their lifestyle. By ensuring children develop healthy habits now, we can give them a fighting chance of avoiding serious ill-health in the future.’

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