Obesity involves every one of us - we should tackle it collectively

 A community approach to tackling obesity

A Guardian article by Sarah Boseley on tackling obesity looks at an approach started in northern France which takes a whole community approach to tackling obesity. She asks if a project started in two French towns could show us how to tackle obesity in children – by taking action as a whole community?

The article describes an experiment that started in two small towns in northern France and has since spread to more French towns and other countries. It is an attempt to engage a whole community in efforts to combat the lifestyles that cause obesity.

Epode (the French acronym for Together, let's prevent childhood obesity) began in Fleurbaix and Laventie in 1992, which, at the time, had 6,600 people between them. "Everyone, from the mayor to shop owners, schoolteachers, doctors, pharmacists, caterers, restaurant owners, sports associations, the media, scientists, and various branches of town government joined in an effort to encourage children to eat better and move around more. The towns built sporting facilities and playgrounds, mapped out walking itineraries, and hired sports instructors. Families were offered cooking workshops, and families at risk were offered counselling," said Dutch nutritionist Martijn Katan.

It was led by the towns' mayors and an obesity champion, appointed locally. They had drive and enthusiasm but also profound knowledge of their community. And it appeared to work. By 2005, obesity in children had dropped to 8.8%, while in similar neighbouring towns it had risen to 17.8%. It wasn't a rigid scientific trial, but many experts are convinced. There are now similar projects in Belgium, Spain, the Netherlands, Greece and Australia.

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