Physical Activity, Diet and Healthy Weight

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 15th November 2018.

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Photo of Iain Gray Iain Gray Labour

That certainly illustrates that some of those things are set very early in life.

Mr Crawford made a good point about this not all being doom and gloom. We have made some progress, and he gave the good example of the daily mile, which has been shown in recent research to be not always daily and not always a mile, but still extremely effective in raising health and activity levels in our schools.

It is not the only example. There is also the active schools programme, which goes back further and which in 2017-18 involved 309,000 young people making almost 7.5 million visits to active schools activity sessions. In my constituency of East Lothian, the programme is an enormous success. Therefore, initiatives have been taken that are having a positive impact.

That is true not just on the activity side but on the diet side as well. In my constituency, good programmes are run in our primary schools by the roots and fruits food collective or fundamental foods, working with young children and showing them how to cook, how to use foods and how to make better diet choices when they get older.

That feeds into the quality of the food provided in our school meals and the availability of free school meals—a number of speakers have mentioned school meals. One important aspect is their being available only during term time. That is why in the Labour amendment we mentioned the important initiative in North Lanarkshire, the 365 Club, which provides free school meals throughout the year.

There are other approaches. In East Lothian, we have lunch clubs in the school holidays in both Tranent and Prestonpans, and those are initiatives that we need to encourage.

Perhaps some of the strongest initiatives combine both things. That is why I want to mention the Go Fitba’ programme, which the Hibs Community Foundation is currently running in Edinburgh and East Lothian. Youngsters in primary schools are given the chance of an hour’s football activity, followed by a session on good nutrition and cooking, and then they sit down for a meal together.

The foundation is not just about children. We have also been responsible for delivering the football fans in training project to more than 560 men and 80 women. The programme is delivered by most of the major football clubs in Scotland and research by the University of Glasgow has shown not only that it encourages weight loss during the 12-week programme, but that the weight loss is still in place some 12 months later. It is an almost uniquely successful programme.

There are programmes that work and we know what we can do, but perhaps the most important thing is to support diverse approaches, because we are obliged to address the problem, and what works for some people will not work for others.