A £1.4 million programme to create a step change in tackling obesity in nursery school children has been launched.

The scheme – funded by NHS Eastbourne, Hailsham and Seaford Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and NHS Hastings and Rother CCG and East Sussex County Council Public Health – is offering £5,000 grants to each of the area’s 158 nursery schools.

It is being delivered in partnership with East Sussex County Council Public Health as part of the joint East Sussex Better Together programme. The investment complements a similar initiative launched by the county council earlier this year, aimed at schools and colleges.

The grants will pay for a range of activities aimed at increasing physical activity and promoting healthy eating, both in nursery schools and at home.

Dr David Warden, chair of NHS Hastings and Rother CCG and Dr Martin Writer, chair of NHS Eastbourne, Hailsham and Seaford CCG, said: “By targeting obesity in children aged 2-5 years, we are aiming to create a positive step change in the health of local children.

“Sadly one in five children in East Sussex area are overweight or obese by the time they reach school age. These children are at risk of poor health including diabetes, low self-esteem, anxiety and depression. And of course the risks increase as overweight children grow up to be overweight adults.”

Cynthia Lyons, acting director of public health for East Sussex, said: “We are aiming to transform outcomes for children. This investment scales up our existing programme to tackle obesity and will ensure a welcome focus on pre-school aged children. Our vision is to support nurseries to deliver best practice in physical activity and nutrition and give parents the knowledge and skills to do the same at home.”

The funding will support nurseries to help children achieve the recommended levels of physical activity, train staff to promote health and wellbeing in children and provide healthy snacks and drinks the nursery. There will be a range of support available to parents to encourage healthy diets and exercise.

The scheme was launched on Friday 22 July at Rainbow Childcare Centre in Ninfield Road, Bexhill. Rainbow is a local pilot nursery for HALO (Healthy Alternative for Little Ones) – a curriculum that promotes health and wellbeing in young children.

Rainbow childcare centre manager Jo Unsworth said: “We believe it’s never too young for children to be aware about the importance of exercise, nutrition and a healthy lifestyle. It’s already a big part of what we do at Rainbow and we’re delighted to have the opportunity to apply for this additional funding and support.”

Cllr Nick Bennett, East Sussex County Council lead member for education and inclusion, said: “I was delighted to be able to attend the launch of a scheme which sees colleagues from the NHS and the county council working together to deliver real benefits to children and which will help to give them a good start in life and a healthy future.”

Nurseries will be invited to apply for grants this summer, with the scheme launching at the start of the autumn term in September 2016.

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