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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 January, 2004, 14:32 GMT
Childhood obesity plea to parents
Children's meal
The executive wants to encourage good diet and exercise
Parents have been urged to support government plans to tackle childhood obesity in Scotland.

First Minister Jack McConnell said agencies could only go so far in promoting good health in youngsters and parents must acknowledge their role.

Mr McConnell outlined a 24m scheme to recruit 600 school co-ordinators to encourage pupils to be more active.

He also wants a more co-ordinated approach to the problem from councils, health boards and other agencies.

Independent MSP Margo MacDonald raised questions about the co-ordinators scheme and the Scottish Tories said responsibility for a child's health should rest with parents.

Mr McConnell's drive follows a report which put Scottish children as the third fattest in Europe on average.

We need to get them off the couch and moving
Jack McConnell
First minister
Recent figures suggested a third of 12-year-olds in Scotland were overweight, and one in five was clinically obese.

Announcing his plan at a school in Port Glasgow, Mr McConnell that the health of future generations was necessary for the future prosperity of Scotland.

"Eating well and regular physical activity are the best and easiest ways any individual can improve their health," he said.

"But it is the responsibility of government to take the lead on the promotion of a healthier lifestyle for all and, as recent reports show, we will still have much to do."

"Ultimately government has to take some responsibility. We accept that responsibility.

"But parents have to take some responsibility too and every single home in Scotland needs to be involved in this."

The first minister described the recently-published statistics on obesity as an "alarm bell" to be heeded.

"We need to get children off the couch and moving," he said.

Mr McConnell said the culture that had led to a rise in obesity could only be turned round by a comprehensive approach that involved the government, parents, and youngsters themselves.

Jack McConnell
Jack McConnell said parents must get involved
The 600 co-ordinators would help to promote physical activity at schools, involving the pupils themselves as willing participants, he told BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme.

The first minister said new nutritional guidelines for healthy food served in pre-school education centres were also being developed.

However, independent MSP Margo MacDonald questioned whether the extra staff for schools would have teaching or physical education qualifications.

"Are they going to be PE teachers? Are they going to be perhaps nutritionists? I want to know who they are, where they are coming from," she said.

Ms MacDonald also called for free school meals and greater nutritional advice and support for young mothers.

Cancer Research UK welcomed the action, saying that it was encouraging given the current unhealthy climate.

Bob Souhami, the charity's director of clinical and corporate affairs, said: "After smoking, obesity is the second most important preventable cause of cancer.

"Up until now this fact has been poorly acknowledged yet the evidence has never been stronger.

Social dimension

"Recent data suggests that obesity increases the cancer death-rate by about 35% in men and 45% in women."

But the Scottish Tories criticised the Scottish Executive's drive and accused them of spending 24m on "pen-pushers and fat tsars".

Tory health spokesman David Davidson said: "It is a parent's duty to provide balanced and nutritional meals and to encourage an active lifestyle."

The Scottish National Party accused the executive of treating the symptom of obesity and not the underlying problem - which they say is social deprivation.


WATCH AND LISTEN
Willie Johnston reports
"Fast food has pushed Scots youngsters towards the top of the obesity league"


Jack McConnell on Good Morning Scotland
"Every single home in Scotland needs to be involved in this"



SEE ALSO:
Drive to fight obesity criticised
05 Jan 04  |  Scotland
Fat Scots youngsters targeted
29 Dec 03  |  Scotland
Scots youth among world's fattest
30 Nov 03  |  Scotland
Scots obesity bill 'tops 170m'
11 Jun 03  |  Scotland
'Weight loss has prolonged my life'
11 Jun 03  |  Scotland
Nurses warn of obesity deaths
28 Apr 03  |  Health
Scotland to get a 'fat controller'
04 Dec 00  |  Scotland


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