Main Content

“2020health is an important and thoughtful contributor to the health debate”

Dr Sarah Wollaston MP, Chairman, Health Select Committee


Child Health and Nutrition with Anne Milton MP and Helen Grant MP

Dec 16. till Dec 16.

2020health Expert Roundtable on Child Health and Nutrition with Anne Milton MP and Helen Grant MP

2020health roundtable discussion event on Child Health and Nutrition with guest speaker, Anne Milton MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Public Health and Helen Grant MP.

December 16, 20102010-12-16T12:30:00 - December 16, 2010 2010-12-16T02:00:00
12:30 PM 2010-12-16T12:30:00 - 2:00 PM 2010-12-16T02:00:00
Portcullis House, Westminster, London


  1. Anne Milton MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Public Health
  2. Helen Grant MP
  3. Belinda Phipps, National Childbirth Trust
  4. Jessamine Matheson, Health Improvement & Protection Directorate, DH
  5. Johanna Hignett, British Specialist Nutrition Association
  6. Kathryn Blundell, Mother & Baby Magazine
  7. Sarah Cowley, Kings College London
  8. Vicki Shotbolt, Mumsnet
  9. Alison Hands, Boots UK
  10. Anne Longfield, 4children
  11. Catherine Meehan, Canterbury Christ Church University
  12. Annie Denny, Sainsbury’s
  13. Julia Manning, 2020health
  14. Eleanor Winpenny, 2020health

Introduction from Anne Milton


Public Health White Paper

• The white paper addresses public health as a person-centred, life-long issue, rather than breaking it down into different areas. They are trying to impact across people’s lives.
• The public health white paper was signed off by a sub-committee made up of ministers from all departments, so the agreement necessary for collaborative working is in place.
• Need to target people at crucial and vulnerable points in their lives, when they have important choices to make and will be more open to information.
• There will be individual strategies coming out to look at individual themes within public health.

Increase in number of health visitors

• There is a strong desire to evolve and improve services in the area of child health.
• The government have committed to increasing the number of health visitors. Initially these initiatives will be driven by the NHS Commissioning board, but then need to move to a more local level.
• Work is being done by The Families Taskforce, chaired by the PM.
• Healthy Start programmes will be continued.
• Public Health will be embedded within local authorities, as was the case pre-1974. To improve public health, socioeconomic change is needed and this can be driven within local communities, where there are lots of good ideas and solutions.
• The role of government is to provide a framework and sometimes legislation to allow local change to take place.
• Inspirational leadership will be needed from the Directors of Public Health within the local authorities.



Time for change
Pregnancy and childbirth is a good opportunity for providing nutrition advice.
Dangers of poor diet and obesity in pregnant mothers include:
- Risk to babies prenatal development
- Increased rate of premature births
- Increased likelihood of caesarian section
- Obese parents likely to have obese children
- Often leads to poor diet for the child
This is a good time to move from convenience meals to home-cooked food with plenty of vegetables.
Time to learn to be a parent, cooking fresh healthy food.
There is too much focus on curative work, need more preventative work.

Reasons for not eating healthily
• Perception of time pressure.
• Perception of increased cost.
• Perception of what is normal.
e.g. Child measurement programme. Shows that ¼ of children in reception class are overweight, but the mothers often do not realise.
The Behaviour Change Unit in No.10 are doing a lot of work on how to shift social norms.
They have only recently started comparing babies weight to ‘normal’ for breast-fed babies, which is less than is normal for those fed bottle-milk.
• Not knowing which health information to trust.
So much, often contradictory, information is available, it is difficult to know which to trust. Many people are more likely to trust their peers than anything they read.
Health visitors and other early years professionals are necessary to support people in understanding how to live healthily.

Routes of information on nutrition during pregnancy and after birth
• Health professionals
• Information provided by health professionals, which should be given to all mothers are:
The Pregnancy Book
Birth to Five
From Bump to Breastfeeding DVD
• The family, especially mothers or sisters
• Mother and Baby have just launched an Internet TV programme.
• Need to remember that 9million of population have no access to internet so need other information access routes.
• Sainsbury’s Little Ones club
• Sport – some programmes which support sport provide healthy eating information alongside.
• TV - some evidence that people from more deprived areas are more likely to watch ITV and thus be subjected to adverts, often for unhealthy foods.

Suggested solutions to encourage healthy eating
• Bring and Share lunches in mother and baby groups, where people prepare what they bring.
• No magic bullet – needs lots of different solutions.
• Peer support
• Changing behaviour is very complex, involving a person’s identity, culture, relationships, ability to cook and what they view as normal.

• Need to develop programmes locally
• Need to lift restrictions due to health and safety – risk of ill-health due to fatness is worse than risk of road injury or attacks when walking to school.

Areas of good practice
• In Bristol, 2 midwives have brought together a group to help overweight mothers in pregnancy.
• “Understanding each other” project in East of England.
Based on ‘Routes of empathy’ programme from Canada.
Involves a pregnant mother, and later the mother and the child making regular visits to a school, facilitating discussion around nutrition, relationships, responsibility.
• A current trial centres around identifying those that are obese, and then providing 8 specific sessions for the 9 months after the child is born, talking about health diet. Results showed that babies did not get as obese due to this programme, but the mothers did not lose weight. However the programme did change the attitude of mothers, starting them thinking about what they ate.

The role of industry
• Removing chocolate from checkouts.
This creates difficulties for mothers as children ask for the chocolate when they see it.
Suggestion to put healthy food in more strategic places.
• The profit margin is bigger in chocolate than in fruit, so retailers will push chocolate.
Can we improve this?
• The government need industry to work with them.
The Responsibility Deal asks industries to sign up to pledges to tackle public health issues.
• Often the ‘value’ range is less healthy than standard items, pushing those with less cash to go for less nutritious food. Sainsbury’s is currently assessing whether there are any differences in health between Basics range and standard range.
• By promoting good companies and publishing good practice, we can press industry to do more for health.

Final thoughts
• If the greatest influence on change is through your peer group, how much emphasis / support is being given to programmes that a local / peer group focus?
• Some retailers have changed their checkouts – it would be interesting to know which retailers are being the most responsive to parent’s requests to change their positioning of e.g. sweets and chocolates.
• Will Health Visitors have an extended mandate / extended role encouraged? e.g. in some areas they are already involved in signposting for relationship education.