May 26 2013 Latest news:
by Flora Drury
Thursday, May 24, 2012
Haringey looks set to become the first borough in the country to restrict the number of takeways on its poorer streets after it was revealed up to half the 10 and 11-year-olds in parts of Tottenham and Wood Green are overweight or obese.
The council wants to limit the number of fastfood joints serving up high-calorie, grease-soaked foods in more deprived areas as a way of tackling the “time-bomb” of obesity in less-wealthy children - which looks set to cause years of health problems and cost the NHS millions.
Already, figures reveal men in the east of the borough live nine years less than their counterparts in the west and, with obesity likely to kill people younger, that difference could get worse.
A new map released as part of Haringey’s annual public health report reveals the stark difference in weight between children on either sides of the train track before they have even reached their teens.
Shockingly, as many as 55.8 per cent of 10 to 11-year-olds in Noel Park, Harringay and Northumberland Park are considered overweight or obese.
The picture is similar across every ward in the east, where at least 25 per cent of 10 to 11-year-olds fall into the bracket - yet in areas like Muswell Hill, Crouch End and Highgate, less than 25 per cent are considered overweight or obese.
These differences are visible in children as young as four and five, when less one in five Crouch End children are considered overweight or obese while it can be as high as one in three in areas like Tottenham Green.
Obesity is now inextricably linked to poverty - ironic, considering a Haringey public health report written in 1912 was more worried about the children of St Ann’s ward starving - and tackling this new “health inequality” is top of Dr Jeanelle de Gruchy priorities.
As Haringey’s director of public health, she is hoping initiatives like banning takeaways opening near schools - which will go for further public consultation later this year - will start to combat the problem.
But while the council could use its powers to stop more fast food joints opening, it cannot close down existing outlets, which are overwhelmingly concentrated in the east.
More food education in schools, encouraging breast-feeding and getting people to be more active are some of the ideas put forward to further tackle the issue of childhood obesity, which, Dr de Gruchy fears, is becoming the “norm”.
She said: “But how do we denormalise something like this? We have to be bold and we have to do as much as we can. For me, it is about raising awareness and getting people talking about this, saying ‘we want something different for our children’.”
But, as Tottenham MP David Lammy points out, the council cannot act alone on something as big as changing the people’s lifestyles.
Mr Lammy said: “Childhood obesity in Tottenham has been a concern for sometime and I am pleased that the council is taking the steps it can to tackle the issue. However, we shouldn’t pretend this on its own will be enough.
“There needs to be a greater emphasis on educating families - not just children - on over-reliance on fast food, more restrictions about how the larger fast food chains advertise to children and more stringent standards on the amount of fat and salt present in the food that is sold on.
“Haringey have done their bit, now we need the government to do theirs.”