Health deprived children in Podsmead are to be given a daily dose of fitness in a bid to slash alarming obesity rates.
Podsmead has been identified as Gloucester’s most health deprived area because of its higher proportion of social housing and high levels of unemployment.
But now the British Heart Foundation has tasked Gloucester City Council with a new initiative in which six schools are to introduce fun, active lessons to drum home the keep fit message to youngsters.
Gloucester is a ‘Heart City’ and a £100,000 Hearty Lives project is funded in Podsmead for three years. Some £20,000 will be spent on working with schools.
Schools involved in the project include Beaufort, Grange, Linden, Calton, Harewood Junior and Hareweood Infant School.
In a report to councillors Gareth Hooper, environmental health officer, said: “Children are important citizens of Gloucester. By promoting healthy lifestyles at schools we hope the support the next generation of Gloucester communities.”
Activities at Beaufort Academy include games of futsal, creating food pods and learning about healthy diets.
Children at Grange Primary School are taking part in line dancing classes, a skipping challenge and songwriting about healthy lifestyles.
Councillor Colin Organ, cabinet member for housing and leisure, said: “It is important to get the right message to youngsters from an early age. This will encourage children to think about heart health. It will be incorporated into their school day and the curriculum.
“We hope that they will pass it onto their parents too because children can be very persuasive.”
Sam Summerfield, a consultant with Slimming World, said: “It is really important to teach children from a young age because it will just become the norm for them. They won’t even need to think about it as opposed to undoing the habits of a lifetime.”
Rob Webber, chief executive officer of the University of Gloucestershire All Golds rugby team, said: “We need to start young with children so they can learn simple steps to change their lifestyle. We also need to work with parents as they are the ones serving up the food and drink.”
Other projects in Podsmead are also already well under way, including Golden Oldies singing sessions for senior citizens, a sports project to help estranged fathers, cooking clubs and street games.
Councillor Jennie Dallimore (C, Podsmead) said: “Access to healthy food can be a problem in Podsmead. Some of the ideas here are based on what residents have come up with themselves.”