Three football clubs in Lancashire – including Preston North End – have teamed up with community organisations and the county council to bring an end to sugary drinks and encourage physical activity. TOM EARNSHAW reports.
As summer approaches and temperatures rise, three football clubs from across Lancashire have teamed up to help children cut back on sugary drinks in an effort to put an end to a growing tooth decay epidemic.
Using the power of their positions within Preston, Wyre, and Hyndburn, community coaches from Preston North End, Fleetwood Town and Accrington Stanley are hoping to make children swap the pop for healthy alternatives like water and low-fat milk through the ‘Give Up Loving Pop’ (GULP) campaign organised by Lancashire County Council.
The county council brought about the incentive after it was revealed that more than one in three children (33.9 per cent) in the north west having obvious dental decay at age five, compared to the England average of 23.3 per cent.
The data from the National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) also shows that Preston stands out in the north west, with two in five (39.6 per cent) of children having obvious decay at five-years-old – underlining the need for effective interventions at the earliest possible stage.
The NCMP also revealed the alarming news that three in 10 Year Six children in Preston (31.8 per cent) and Wyre (29.1 per cent) are medically overweight.
To tackle what many believe to be a growing epidemic, the clubs and county council – along with non-governmental organisation Healthy Stadia and north west health campaigners Food Active – are between them delivering classroom-based games and physical activities to children.
The aim is to teach them why it is important to look after their teeth and gums, the importance of understanding food labels on drink bottles and cans, and why hydration is important for their education and playing sports.
Harriet Creighton-Levis, Schools Provision Manager at Preston North End Community & Education Trust, said: “As Preston’s local professional football club and Community Trust, it is almost our duty to help combat these alarming figures, and through this fantastic new initiative – alongside our Education Programmes, we’re hoping that we can encourage more children to ‘Give Up Loving Pop’ this summer.”
She added: “Football can play such an important role in a child’s development, so it’s vital that we are educating children of the impact of excess sugar consumption through sugary drinks – using an array of sporting examples through classroom-based and physical activity sessions, we hope to educate not only the children but parents alike.”
Rob Larcombe, Sports Development Officer (Health and Wellbeing) at Fleetwood Town Community Trust said: “Here at Fleetwood Town Community Trust, health and wellbeing is high on our agenda and we actively seek to improve the lives of people within the community.
“Give Up Loving Pop is an exciting project run with Healthy Stadia that aims to reduce sugar intake in children through reducing the amount of unhealthy drinks they consume.
“This is a major issue in society today as high sugar intake is directly related to poor health. We are therefore keen supporters of this project and are looking forward to delivering this within schools over the next few weeks.”
It comes after the UK government introduced its “ground-breaking” sugar tax on soft drinks, which sees manufacturers producing drinks with more than eight grams of sugar per 100ml footed with a tax rate equivalent to 24 pence per litre.
Public Health Minister Steve Brine said: “Our teenagers consume nearly a bathtub of sugary drinks each year on average, fuelling a worrying obesity trend.
“The levy is a ground-breaking policy that will help to reduce sugar intake.”
The three week GULP campaign kicked off yesterday, targeting Key Stage Two and Three students in two different ways.
At Key Stage Two, children are scoring points for cutting back on sugary drinks in competition with other schools.
At Key Stage Three students are being encouraged to sign-up to and follow GULP’s Facebook campaign, highlighting the marketing techniques used by sugary drinks manufacturers to promote their products.
This comes after celebrity chef and healthy eating campaigner Jamie Oliver appeared before the government’s Health and Social Care Committee last week where he spoke about the negative effect of using cartoons to market unhealthy food, highlighting characters like Tony the Tiger and the Milky Bar Kid.
Oliver added that superhero-like figures should not be used to “peddle rubbish”.
Beth Bradshaw, Food Active Project Officer, added that the fight against sugary drinks should go further than just sugar drinks to include diet and sugar-free versions of consumers’ favourites.
Ms Bradshaw said: “Even diet and zero drinks, which have previously been seen as a step in the right direction, contain lots of acid which can soften tooth enamel.
“Part of the reason we are still seeing huge numbers of children in the north west under five years of age being admitted to hospital for tooth extractions is the acid in high-sugar drinks.”