‘Teaching parents to be stricter could reverse the obesity epidemic among young children, a groundbreaking scheme has shown.
After offering parenting classes, Leeds is the first English city to report a fall in the number of youngsters developing weight problems.
Research involving Oxford University found that the eight-week programme showing parents how to “take charge” has been linked to a significant drop in obesity levels.
The scheme, which costs councils £50 per family, is aimed particularly at deprived areas.
Ministers have said efforts to prevent obesity in toddlers will form a central part of a Green Paper this summer. The Government’s former obesity tsar said the results were “astonishing”.
Obesity rates among five-year-olds in England remained unchanged between 2013-14 and 2016-17, at around 9.4 per cent.
However, rates in Leeds dropped from 9.4 per cent to 8.8 per cent over the same period, according to the study presented at the European Congress on Obesity in Glasgow.
Prof Susan Jebb, of Oxford University, who is the Government’s former obesity tsar, said: “If you look at it by deprivation, the most deprived group in Leeds is doing especially well. That is astonishing.”
Health visitors, nursery staff and children’s centre workers in Leeds are trained to discuss healthy eating and refer parents for classes if they think it will help. Prof Jebb said: “It’s about helping parents find solutions.
“None of us are born with parenting skills. Most of us have to make it up as we go along.”‘