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Thursday, October 29, 1998 Published at 13:40 GMT


An apple from teacher?

Free school breakfasts should be available, says study

A national heart charity has called for pupils to be given free fruit and vegetables at school.

The National Heart Forum, in a study examining links between deprivation and heart disease, says better nutrition will help children to avoid heart problems in later life.

[ image: A national strategy should focus on improving children's diet]
A national strategy should focus on improving children's diet
Free healthy food, such as fresh fruit and vegetables, should be given to pupils from families with low incomes, says the study, proposing a revival of the public health initiatives that once saw free milk given to schoolchildren.

The forum, which represents experts in health research and social policy, also suggests that free breakfasts should be available at school, to provide young people with a healthy start to the day they might not receive at home.

The study, 'Social Inequalities In Coronary Heart Disease: Opportunities For Action', found that the poorest people in Britain are three times more likely to suffer from heart disease than those who are better off.

It said lack of money led to unhealthy lifestyles and that intervention was needed to ensure that deprived children could be expected to live as long as their wealthier counterparts.

The report found that children from low income families were the most likely to experience malnutrition and had an increased likelihood of illness.

To prevent the cycle of ill-health continuing, the forum said that children needed to be a "focus of the national strategy, which addresses risk factors and disadvantage throughout the life course".

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