Limerick leads the way in helping children and families to achieve healthier lifestyle

Norma Prendiville

Reporter:

Norma Prendiville

LIMERICK is leading the country in rolling out a programme to help children beat the flab and get fitter and healthier.

LIMERICK is leading the country in rolling out a programme to help children beat the flab and get fitter and healthier.

The Way to Go Kids programme is specially designed to help over-weight and underactive children achieve a healthier weight and lifestyle and was introduced on a pilot basis to Limerick last year with some good successes.

Starting next month, another round of the programme will run in Adare but to kick-start it, there will be an information meeting at the Woodlands House Hotel, Adare next Wednesday evening.

And Phelim Macken, director of the County Limerick Sports Partnership which is promoting the programme with the HSE and the Limerick City Sports Partnership, is encouraging parents to come along.

It is difficult for parents to put up their hands and perhaps acknowledge that their child is overweight or obese, Phelim says, with evident sympathy. “Unfortunately, it is a bit of a taboo area,” he adds.

And indeed, he reveals, there have been criticisms from some parents to a programme focusing on weight-management in children. Their concern is that it might put undo pressure on issues such as body-image at a very early stage, Phelim explains.

However, he stresses that Way to Go Kids is about achieving and maintaining good health – and the programme’s approach to that is through physical activity and a balanced, healthy diet. The programme also involves the whole family in trying to achieve that healthy balance.

The Way to Go Kids programme began in the United States and was introduced in Limerick last year, Phelim explains.

To date, three rounds of the programme have been organised in Newcastle West, Castletroy and Limerick City. And the hope is to roll it out in four selected areas each year.

The Get BACk challenge, the registered charity for business against cancer, is actively supporting the programme.

Between 10 and 15 children will be accommodated on the Adare programme which is aimed primarily but not exclusively at 9-12 year olds. “There is an element of screening involved,” Phelim points out as health-checks will be carried out to see if children are suitable for the programme.

“We also want to get a commitment from the family,” he stresses.

The programme will run for eight weeks starting in October and will involve a two-hour session each week:an hour of physical activity and an hour in which nutrition and diet are discussed with dietitians from the HSE involved.

As Phelim explains: “Physical activity alone is not going to work.This is a unique programme, helping families build lifelong healthy attitudes towards food and fitness. It incorporates exercise, nutrition and behaviour modification. Snacking, eating away from home, fast foods and physical inactivity are pertinent issues, not only for the child but for the family as a whole.”

“We know that getting the whole family involved improves children’s chances of being a healthy weight,” says Sinead Glover, community dietitian with the HSE.

Participating families will receive day passes for the Woodlands House Hotel Leisure Centre once the programme finishes and one lucky family will receive four months free membership to the centre.

Parents interested in taking part in the Way To Go Kidsin Adare can register their interest by contacting Anne/Sinead on 061-483437/483448. Or they can simply come along next Wednesday, September 12 at 7pm.