Carole Coulon, Portfolio Manager, Guy's and St Thomas' Charity
Sep 30, 2019
Our childhood obesity programme aims to improve children's health in urban areas by tackling childhood obesity. Through our programme’s homes strand, we're working to change the environments where children take their first steps into the world of food and physical activity.
Insights from our ethnographic research to date show that homes and early years settings have a long-lasting impact on a child's health and weight. From the availability of cooking equipment to spaces for children to play, these environments help children to access nutritious food options and develop healthy eating habits from an early age.
However, making changes in our environment is difficult. Homes are private spaces, making it challenging to influence these environments at scale. Meanwhile, food standards are not consistently applied across all early years settings.
The evidence base suggests that the places that we spend our time have significant impact on our food and activity choices. We know that nurseries can provide children with up to three meals each weekday which can have a significant impact on children’s overall consumption. At their best, they can make the healthier option the default option.
While the evidence is clear on the factors that influence children’s weight in the home and early years settings, there is limited evidence on what works to tackle childhood obesity in those environments. For example, we know that breastfeeding is linked to lower rates of childhood obesity, but we haven’t seen initiatives make large-scale improvements in breastfeeding rates. A lot of conversations about early years are framed around statutory sector health interventions, like work led by midwives and health visitors. But these services are already stretched. We’re interested in what initiatives will complement and support statutory activity.
That's why we look to work with a range of organisations – including social enterprises, statutory services, housing providers, children's centres, nurseries and community groups – to test new products and services that support families to access healthier food options and chances to be active. By trialling projects in our local area, we plan to build and share an evidence base for how to create healthy home environments.
We are testing projects in three key areas:
Over the next 12 months, we want to explore other projects under these three key areas. If you have an idea for a project that will help families to access healthy food options for their home, embed healthy practices in nurseries and support breastfeeding and infant weaning, please get in touch.
Portfolio Manager: Carole Coulon