Concern for future of Suffolk Healthy Schools project

CONCERNS were raised last night about plans to scrap a 'long-term initiative' to improve the health and well-being of children and young people in Suffolk.

The county council has said it is looking at axeing the Suffolk Healthy Schools Programme as part of its review of services.

Recent figures have shown that about one in 11 children in reception classes and one in six 10-year-olds are regarded as obese in Suffolk.

Health bosses have said this is ahead of targets and evidence that programmes such as Healthy Ambitions Suffolk – which aims to make the county the healthiest in the UK by 2028 – are having an impact.

But the fear is that this hard work could now be undone as council chiefs look to tighten the purse strings.

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The Suffolk Healthy Schools Programme is a partnership between NHS Great Yarmouth and Waveney, NHS Suffolk and Suffolk County Council.

According to the county council's website it is 'an exciting long term initiative to improve the health and well-being of children and young people'. It says the programme is a 'key vehicle' for driving Healthy Ambitions Suffolk.

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Celebrity farmer Jimmy Doherty, who is based at Wherstead, near Ipswich, and is a passionate campaigner for youngsters eating a healthier diet, said: 'Obviously there has to be cutbacks, there is no getting away from that.

'However I see the Healthy School Programme as an investment in our children. As a new father I think that is very important.

'We need to teach children about the importance of living a healthier lifestyle. By promoting good eating habits it can only benefit their future.

'It will have a knock-on effect in the long term – resulting in less hospital trips and appointments with doctors for conditions such as diabetes.

'We need to tackle these things. I would hope there are other areas they would look to cut first.'

Double Commonwealth Games archery gold medallist Nicky Hunt, from Ipswich, added: 'It is a difficult time for everyone and there will be changes.

'However I hope that the good work that has already been done will continue. Promoting a healthy lifestyle to children is vitally important, not just for them but for the whole of the community.'

It is currently costing NHS Suffolk about �10million a year to treat overweight people. This could rise to �65m by 2050 if nothing is done.

Priorities for the Healthy Schools Programme include reducing childhood obesity, improving psychological health and well-being, improving the sexual health of young people, reducing teenage pregnancy rates and rates of sexually transmitted infections and decreasing smoking, alcohol and substance misuse.

A spokesman for Suffolk County Council said the consultation was still ongoing and no decisions had been made and therefore it would be inappropriate to comment further.

Representatives from NHS Suffolk and Healthy Ambitions Suffolk also declined to comment until discussions were complete.

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