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Diane Abbott MP calls UK childhood obesity a ‘problem of poverty’ and a big issue in Hackney

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06 May 2011

Diane Abbott MP, the Shadow Health Minister, has called for action over Britain’s childhood obesity in a debate in Parliament.

She says:

“Childhood obesity is a problem of poverty and unsurprisingly is a big issue in Hackney. We have some of the highest levels of childhood obesity in London. 13.3% of Hackney children entering school reception classes are medically obese and the level rises to 24% by year 6. And we know that nowadays children don’t grow out of being chubby. 70% of children who are obese when young grow up into obese adults. And overweight adults are far more likely to develop diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, heart disease and other related diseases. There is a very real danger that significant numbers of today’s children will live shorter lives than their parents and spend more of their years in poor health.

It is easy to make parents feel guilty about this issue. So it is important to stress that this is not about how children look. It is about their health, how they feel and the possibilities open to them. And in truth families are victims of the fact that we all live a much more sedentary life and eat much more processed food then we did when the National Health Service was originally set up. Also modern parents worry about “stranger danger” and allowing their children to run about in the streets all day. So modern children spend increasing amounts of time indoors watching television and playing computer games.

Schools have an important role to play in encouraging healthy eating habits and lifestyles in children. Local schools in Hackney are really beginning to take a lead in improving our children’s health. I know schools like St Thomas Abney and Millfields Community School have been working hard on providing healthy food and extra-curricular options. I know how much local children are enjoying being involved in sports schemes like the “Arsenal Double Club.”

But government also has to do more. The Tories are cutting back on some of the last Labour governments schemes to encourage healthy living like Change4life. They are also more concerned with working with big business than in improving our children’s health. And they should bring in better systems of food labelling to help patients make the right choice.'

Notes to Editors

1) The full Westminster debate can be read at:

For more information, contact Gabe Trodd at: or 0207 219 4426

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