Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Toddlers targeted in new obesity prevention initiative
Article Type: Food Facts From: Nutrition & Food Science, Volume 38, Issue 3.
A healthy lifestyle programme for families with toddlers aged between two and four years is being launched today as the latest step in the fight against rising child obesity levels in the UK. Mini-MEND is a ten-week programme open to all families with two- to four-year old children, irrespective of weight. Developed by experts as a result of increasing interest in early obesity prevention amongst both healthcare practitioners and parents, the programme is a younger children's version of the successful MEND (Mind, Exercise, Nutrition Do it!) Programme, which is already running in 250 community locations nationwide.
Mini-MEND is designed to give toddlers the best start in life and encourage healthy, active habits including cutting down on TV watching. Run by childcare and health professionals, the weekly group sessions get parents and toddlers moving through active play and encourage them to taste new foods including a variety of fruits and vegetables. Parents also discuss food types and portion sizes, learn how to read food labels, and find out ways to deal with fussy eating. Forty-seven toddlers and their parents are involved in a field trial of Mini-MEND at five sites including Early Years Centres in Lewisham (South East London), Hillingdon, South Tyneside and Plymouth. The field trial has been supported by a donation from Nutricia Limited. The response from participating parents has been extremely positive.
Mini-MEND will be rolled out on a wider basis from May 2008, with the goal of ensuring that by the end of 2009, 3,000 Sure Start and Children's Centres nationwide will be delivering Mini-MEND Programmes funded by a combination of public and private sources, building on Nutricia's example in backing the pilot.
According to Paul Sacher, Research Director at MEND, "Young children get into particular eating and activity patterns which can stay with them for years, so it's important that we get them off to the healthiest possible start to avoid weight problems in the future. This means helping pre-school age children grow up with the mindset that eating healthy foods and being active is fun and part and parcel of daily life. Mini-MEND gives parents a chance to help their toddlers take positive steps towards achieving a healthy balanced lifestyle. We are now offering the programme on a widespread basis working in public private partnerships with, amongst others, Primary Care Trusts, children's centres and additional private sector contributors".
MEND has a 20 year research partnership with the Institute of Child Health, University College London and Great Ormond Street Hospital. To date MEND has catalysed funding of £15 million to deliver interventions and training.