The amount and type of food that you eat can have a major effect on your health. Eating a healthy diet reduces the risk of being obese, diabetic and suffering diseases such as heart attack, stroke, osteoporosis and cancer. Overall a healthy diet increases life expectancy. The Department of Health recommends that to improve diet five or more portions of fruit and vegetables should be eaten each day.
Healthy eating and nutrition is important for people at all ages, but especially for pregnant women, infants and children as it is at a young age that many eating habits are formed. Encouraging breastfeeding of babies and healthy eating from an early age is important, as this can prevent future obesity.
What do we know?
In Shropshire around three quarters of women breastfeed at delivery of their baby (75.9%, 2011/12), which is similar to the national average, and 45.1% (Q4 2010-11) breastfeed at 6-8 weeks after delivery, which is also similar to the national figure. Women in the most deprived areas and younger mothers are less likely to breastfeed their babies than those in older age groups and more affluent areas. As Shropshire is relatively affluent and teenage births are low, the figures for breastfeeding might be expected to be higher than the national average.
The latest lifestyle information for children in Shropshire states that 39% ate 3-4 portions of fruit and vegetables per day, which is higher than the national proportion (35%). 21% of children locally stated they consumed 5 or more portions; the figure nationally was 19%. For adults in Shropshire it is estimated that 28.3% consume the recommended five or more portions of fruit and vegetables per day, which is also similar to the national figure (26.3%). Previous local lifestyle surveys have shown a relationship between five a day consumption and deprivation, with more fruit and vegetables consumed in the least deprived areas.
What are we doing?
Local services in Shropshire (Maternity at SaTH, Health Visitors and Children’s Centres) are working through the accreditation stages of UNICEF Baby Friendly Initiative in order to achieve full Baby Friendly status, although locally there is concern that the funding may not continue. The Healthy Start programme (a UK-wide government scheme to improve the health of low-income pregnant women and families with young children) has also been introduced locally; this is a statutory requirement and is supported by NICE (PH11). The scheme encourages participants to eat a more nutritious diet and to lead healthier lifestyles by providing vouchers to buy healthier foods, milk and infant formula as well as free vitamin supplements. By working with community pharmacies Healthy Start vitamins are more accessible to those receiving vouchers. On-going work is taking place with agencies to engage families of young children to increase the local uptake of the scheme.
Shropshire Healthy Eating Award (SHEA) aims to encourage restaurants, cafes and other food establishments to offer customers healthy menu options. SHEA has four levels ranging from bronze to platinum and is awarded to premises that:
- Provide and promote healthy food choices
- Possess good standards of food hygiene
- Staff are trained in respect of food hygiene
- Are breastfeeding friendly (platinum level only)
There are currently 220 local award holders.
A mapping exercise of local initiatives that either directly or indirectly reduces obesity levels in Shropshire is currently underway. The findings will help identify policy and environmental level initiatives as well as those aimed at individuals, communities and whole populations. The results will also inform the development and implementation of a local obesity strategy.
Find out more from the attachment linked to this page.