Page last updated at 12:01 GMT, Monday, 14 April 2008 13:01 UK

Cash to tackle childhood obesity

Fat boy
The cash will be spent on programmes for five to 15-year-olds

The Scottish Government has announced plans to spend a further 6m in the fight against childhood obesity.

Figures last year revealed that 21% of all primary one children were overweight, including 8.8% classed as obese and 4.3% who were severely obese.

The figures are higher in deprived areas, where 22.5% of primary one children are overweight, 9.9% are obese, and 5.5% severely obese.

The aim is to improve the health of at least 20,000 overweight children.

Health secretary Nicola Sturgeon announced the move at an international conference in Edinburgh on health inequalities.

Health inequalities

She told the conference that health boards will be told to set up family-focused weight treatment programmes for children aged between five and 15.

These would promote healthy eating and physical activity and address the underlying causes of weight gain.

"Chronic health conditions associated with obesity such as coronary heart disease are more prevalent in deprived communities," Ms Sturgeon said.

"Yet it is those who are living in less affluent areas who are more likely to find it difficult to access affordable healthy foods and have opportunities to be active."

She said the funding will directly benefit overweight children, and is an addition to the actions the Scottish Government is already taking to tackle health inequalities, such as free school meals, raising the age of cigarette sales to 18 and expanding the Keep Well programme.

The conference has attracted politicians and health professionals from across the UK, Europe and North America, including Canada, the United States, Estonia and Finland.

If the SNP are serious about tackling childhood obesity they could start by avoiding sending out contradictory and confused messages on the issue
Ross Finnie MSP
Scottish Lib Dems

The Liberal Democrats accused Ms Sturgeon of sending out contradictory messages on child obesity by planning to dump a target of giving school pupils two hours of physical education per week.

The claim has been denied by the Scottish Government, which insisted it is merely a "proposal" from local authorities that has yet to be decided upon.

Lib Dem health spokesman Ross Finnie said: "The SNP government's left hand doesn't know what its right hand is doing.

"If the SNP are serious about tackling childhood obesity they could start by avoiding sending out contradictory and confused messages on the issue."

Labour health spokeswoman Margaret Curran made a similar criticism.

She said: "With the SNP, the left leg doesn't know what the right leg is doing - and neither leg is getting any exercise.

"This funding falls short of what is necessary and comes in the same week that the SNP is reported to have scrapped a manifesto pledge to provide every school pupil with at least two hours of physical education per week."

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