SUGAR SMART Merton launched on 4 April at the Merton Arts Space Centre in Mitcham Library with a wide array of community groups, patients, healthcare professionals and council representatives from across Merton uniting to tackle the effects of sugar overconsumption.
Speakers included Councillor Stephen Alambritis (Leader of the Council) and Councillor Tobin Byers (Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Health), Councillor Kelly Braund (Cabinet Member for Children’s Services), Dr Dagmar Zeuner (Director of Public Health), Dr Andrew Murray (Chair of Merton CCG and HWBB Co-Chair), Chris Lee (Director of Environment and Regeneration), Councillor Tobin Byers and representatives from Diabetes Truth: Fred Springer and Steve Bowman who bravely spoke about their personal experiences of living with a diabetes diagnosis.
Speakers highlighted the high rate of diabetes and obesity rates across Merton. Schools in East Merton have higher rates of childhood obesity than London and England. In 2016/17, 35.9% of year 6 children were overweight or obese, and the numbers are thought to have increased since then. The statistics reveal that the wide inequality between the more deprived East and wealthier West Merton is a key determinant of food environments and health with 81% of schools in East Merton located within 400 metres of a fast food outlet. And one in ten 4-5 year olds obese in the east, whereas in the west, it’s one in 20.
The Leader of the Council, Councillor Stephen Alambritis said:
“We want to ensure that children in Merton have a healthy start in life. Preventing obesity which later leads to chronic diseases is important to us. There is hidden sugar in everyday foods which we often miss unless we read the packaging, which is why we are working in collaboration with Sustain and local partners to ensure that we effectively create a healthier borough for everyone.
Merton Council’s Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, Councillor Kelly Braund, said:
“Getting into healthy habits at a young age can help to reduce the risk of obesity and long term conditions including diabetes. Childhood obesity is a complex issue and there is no single solution, which is why we are working with families and the wider community to ensure Merton is a healthy place to grow up.”
Dr Dagmar Zeuner, Director of Public Health at Merton Council said:
“Childhood obesity is a complex issue and there is no single solution. Therefore a preventative, whole systems approach is required, which recognises the influence of the places where we live, work and play on our health and well-being, as well as our individual behaviours and choices.”
The SUGAR SMART Merton campaign is coordinated by Merton’s Public Health team as part of Merton’s Diabetes and Child Healthy Weight Action Plans.
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