Proposals for 10 'Fit Towns' to tackle obesity
Government plans to tackle the growing obesity epidemic in Britain include broadening plans for eco towns and turning them into healthy or 'fit towns'.
According to the health secretary, Alan Johnson, two great challenges facing Britain - climate change and obesity - are linked.
He believes it makes sense that 10 eco towns already being planned by the government should now be built and designed to confront the UK's obesity crisis, drawing on pioneering schemes already producing results in Australia, France and Finland.
Mr Johnson wants Britain to follow the example of 10 French towns which have focused on young children and seen substantial cuts in obesity. The initiatives in France led to the proportion of overweight boys aged seven to 12 falling from 19% to 10% and in the girls from 10% to 7%.
He is convinced only a comprehensive rather than the current fragmented approach will work.
Practical measures in new healthy towns being considered by Ministers include:
Regular weigh-ins for children starting as they leave primary school, including the recording of body mass indexes
Increasing the number of cycle lanes
Designing safe walking routes to schools and from suburbs into the centre
Programmes in schools to inspire children to eat healthily, avoid fast food outlets, learn to cook and play sport from a young age
Ensuring GP practices are on the high street so more people can use them
Larger parks, modern playgrounds and improved leisure centres
Mr Johnson said: "International evidence and research shows that we need a large-scale approach across the whole community to help tackle obesity. As part of our commitment to provide new eco towns we are also considering making them healthy towns - through their layout, facilities and construction. If this works it could also apply to areas undergoing housing growth and renewal."
Last month's influential report by government scientists Foresight suggested that on current trends about 60% of men, 50% of women and 25% of children in the UK would be obese by 2050.
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