The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has launched an innovative new scheme to support London’s youngest children and tackle health inequalities across the capital.
Healthy Early Years London (HEYL) helps children and families learn about healthy eating, exercise and social and emotional development.
Sadiq Khan unveiled his HEYL programme, as he met staff, young children and their parents at the Acacia Pre-School Children’s Centre, in Mitcham.
The programme forms a key part of the Mayor’s new Health Inequalities Strategy, which is designed to make the capital a healthier and fairer city by keeping people well and tackling the conditions that affect health.
Londoners currently face stark disparities in health depending on their incomes and where they live, and this can begin at the youngest of ages. In Tower Hamlets, babies are more than two-and-a-half times more likely to be born at a low birth weight than those in Richmond upon Thames, while across London the development of five year olds on free school meals is almost three months behind their peers.
Across England, obesity in children in reception classes living in the most deprived areas is more than double that of those living in the least deprived areas. In London, currently almost one in five children in reception year are overweight or obese, while one in four five year olds has tooth decay.
The Mayor is committed to reducing these inequalities and through his new awards programme, nurseries, children’s centres, playgroups and childminders will be given support to help infants and pre-school children learn about the importance of healthy eating and exercise, as well as a range of social and emotional development.
The programme encourages children and families to eat healthy food, drink water, play outside, walk or cycle, sleep well, sing and read, and learn skills including brushing their teeth properly, as they develop behaviours that will prepare them for school and outside the home.
Nurseries, children’s centres, playgroups and childminders are also encouraged to work closely with parents and carers as they progress through each level of the programme to improve the health, wellbeing and development of the capital’s youngest children.
The programme has been successfully piloted at 60 early years’ childcare providers across six boroughs and is now being expanded across the capital allowing any of the 13,000 providers to sign up. It will be evaluated with support by Bloomberg Philanthropies Partnership for Healthy Cities and has been highlighted by the World Health Organisation and Partnership for Healthy Cities as an example of good work across the globe.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “Our capital faces huge health inequalities and it’s shocking that, even from the youngest of ages, children’s health suffers because of the circumstances into which they are born. We know that giving children the best start in life is the most effective way to address health inequalities in the longer term, and we all have a role to play in ensuring that every London child can enjoy the best possible start to life. That’s why through our new Healthy Early Years London programme we’re looking at every aspect of a child’s life so that we can help them grow and develop in the healthiest possible way.”
Kelly Braund, Merton Council cabinet member for children’s services, said: “We are delighted that Healthy Early Years London is being launched in Merton. It highlights the great work that is being done at centres like the Acacia, to improve the health, wellbeing and development of our youngest residents. We will be engaging with parents, carers and the community to help children learn about healthy eating and lifestyle habits from a young age to lay down the foundations for them to lead healthier, more active lives. We hope to continue on the good work that is already being done to bridge the gap to reduce health inequalities and welcome the support from the Mayor of London.”