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Childhood obesity project in China

Updated: Sep 21, 2021

Today’s guest blog is written by Jackie Moores who is an Advanced Health Improvement Specialist for Early Years working in Public Health at Leeds City Council. She has just returned from China as part of a project on childhood obesity funded by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Global Britain Fund.

Thanks to the links already in place between Leeds and Hangzhou in China, an opportunity came up for me to travel to China and co-deliver some workshops and roundtable discussions about childhood obesity.

The work we have done in Leeds especially in our children’s centres has, over recent years, helped us to buck the national trend and reduce levels of childhood obesity in reception classes when compared to the national levels. We know that a “whole systems life course” approach is needed.

China has seen astounding development over the last couple of decades, with one city I visited having seen population growth of 7 to 10 million in the space of a year! Linked to this demographic change are increased income levels, changes in lifestyle from rural to urban living, lots of traffic, reduced physical activity and exposure to more western style foods which inevitably are high in fat and sugar.

East meets West
A possible contributor to child obesity? Candy floss larger than a human head!

Unlike the situation in Leeds, child obesity is linked to affluence in China with an estimated 15 million children affected. The Chinese government is concerned about these levels and sees that measures are required to try and halt its progress.

We visited two cities as part of this project – Hangzhou, which is Leeds’ partner city, and Xi’an. The workshops were held in two international schools (Wellington College Bilingual Hangzhou and Xi’an Liangjiatan) both were newly opened with a three year admissions plan to reach full capacity. They had Olympic size swimming pools, dance studios, music labs, theatres, state of the art IT suites, art studios and much more.

The roundtable discussion was with the Health Commission of Shaanxi, the Foreign Affairs Office of People’s Government in Shaanxi and academics from Jiaotong University.

All the sessions involved presentations and speeches from Britain and China supported by simultaneous translation, slides were shown in English and Chinese. The formal presentations were followed by discussions about the content and next steps. We certainly needed to be adaptable as the slides shown were not always the ones expected! There were however many things that we had in common between the experiences of both countries and an open and helpful dialogue took place and who knows further work in the future.

There was interest in what we do here in Leeds including the HENRY programme delivered by our family outreach workers in Children’s Centres and some members of the Health Visiting teams, our Healthy Weight Declaration and the work of the Health and Wellbeing service.

I travelled to China not knowing quite what to expect it was an overload of visual differences and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I want to thank the council and the Children and Families Public Health Team for enabling me to go and Connect China for organising everything for the trip.

I am more than happy to discuss the visit in more detail so please get in touch!

Jackie Moores – Advanced Health Improvement Specialist – Early Years

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