Greenhouse Sports Chief Executive John Herriman was recently invited to talk to The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for a Fit and Healthy Childhood. Chaired by Jim Fitzpatrick MP and Baroness Floella Benjamin of Beckenham OBE, the objective of the APPG is to facilitate discussion and produce reports on all aspects of childhood health and wellbeing. The topic at hand was the role of activity in combatting childhood obesity, and as well as our Chief Executive John Herriman, attendees also heard speeches from Chris Wright, Head of Wellbeing at Youth Sport Trust, and Dr Mike Loosemore, from The Institute of Sport, University College London. As a sport for development charity, we are passionate about engaging in the kinds of conversations facilitated by APPG. We are also always looking to be inspired and to learn from our fellow leaders within the sector.
So, what did Greenhouse Sports bring to the conversation? Currently, only a fifth of children meet the UK Chief Medical Officer’s recommended 60 minutes a day of moderate to vigorous physical activity for all children aged 5 to 18. Yet this issue is even more pronounced in the disadvantaged London communities we have been working with for the past 15 years. The strong relationship between deprivation and lower levels of physical activity is undeniable—research has shown that children living in the most deprived areas are more than twice as likely to suffer from obesity than those living in the least deprived areas. More affluent boroughs such as Richmond upon Thames have an 11% rate of obesity amongst young people. In contrast, Barking and Dagenham, ranked the fourth highest of the London boroughs for income deprivation, has the highest prevalence of obesity at 28.5%.
In the context of budget cuts that fall disproportionately on disadvantaged areas, there is a lot to be done to combat the issues of health inequality. In our experience as a sport for development charity, sport and physical activity provision will only successfully combat childhood obesity if it is targeted efficiently, delivered properly, and has adequate support. The young people that our coaches work with do not have a lack of ability, only a lack of opportunity. Our coaches work daily to create opportunities for young people, and to teach them to harness their own ability to succeed.
Yet we are one piece of the puzzle. Speaking at the APPG Group gives us the special opportunity to discuss ways we can move forward in partnership with other likeminded organisations. We were inspired listening to the words of Dr Mike Loosemore of UCL and Chris Wright of Youth Sport. The discussion that followed after the speeches was equally as engaging. Looking at the bigger picture, we need to work together as charities, parliamentarians, and other interested parties, in order to multiply and strengthen the impact we have on the young people that need it the most.