HUNDREDS of thousands of pounds will be used in a bid to tackle obesity in Southampton children.

LifeLab at the University of Southampton has been awarded £200,000 by Southampton City Council to fund work taking on obesity among primary school children.

The programme will run for three years and will span across schools around the city.

In partnership with University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, the University of Southampton Early LifeLab programme aims to support behaviour change in children using a series of ‘teaching toolkits’.

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It aims to make the science behind healthy diets, physical activity and sleep accessible to children.

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It is hoped this will help discover why this matters for themselves, supporting children and their families in making healthy choices.

Professor Keith Godfrey is one of the LifeLab programme directors and a lead researcher in the NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre.

He said: "Childhood obesity in the UK is a major public health problem. In 2019/2020, nearly one in four children in the first year of primary school were overweight or obese.

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"Over the course of the pandemic, levels of overweight and obesity in children have seen a sharp worsening, highlighting the need for new approaches.”

All primary schools in Southampton can opt to take part in Early LifeLab.

Participating schools will receive a fully-resourced “flight case”, which contains all the equipment, resources and teaching information needed to deliver the lessons.

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Dr Kath Woods-Townsend, the programme lead for Early LifeLab, said: “Tackling obesity in children was already on our agenda at LifeLab pre COVID, but the pandemic and its effects have brought the issue even more to the fore.

“Based on our well established and successful LifeLab programme for secondary school students, Early LifeLab has 4 modules across the primary phase (Early Years, Keystage 1, Lower Keystage 2 and Upper Keystage 2) that are delivered directly in schools.

"We know this is an effective setting to reach a large population of children across all communities, and we provide the tools teachers need to deliver health messages in an engaging way.”

The council grant for Early LifeLab will run until 2025.

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