A SCHEME to combat childhood obesity has been launched in Hampshire.

A programme of events designed to help families lead healthier lives will begin this month.

The county-wide programme, called MEND, (Mind, Exercise, Nutrition . . . Do It!), is designed to help overweight and obese children aged five to 13.

It will provide 10 weeks of interactive group sessions to promote healthy lifestyles and address issues arising from being overweight.

Children will get active play sessions while parents will be invited to discuss ways to promote healthy behaviour. MEND will also promote a better understanding of food labelling, different types of food, how much you need and how to be more active.

The programme, commissioned by Public Health at Hampshire County Council and co-ordinated by Sport Hampshire & IOW, is free to join.

The most recent data from the National Child Measurement Programme shows that in Hampshire one in five children in Year R are categorised as either overweight or obese, with the figure rising to one in four for Year 6 children.

Councillor Liz Fairhurst, Hampshire County Council’s executive member for adult social care and public health, said: “Being above a healthy weight during childhood can lead to serious problems later in life and increases the likelihood of developing conditions such as type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease.

“The MEND approach is not a diet, and no foods are off-limits. It simply aims to empower children and adults to become fitter, healthier and happier.”

In Basingstoke, a programme for children aged between five to seven will begin on January 21 every Tuesday between 4pm and 6pm at Basingstoke Sports Centre.

To book a place call Emma Cameron, on 01256 302249 or email Emma. Cameron@sportscentre.org.uk.

To find out more about other programmes, visit hants.gov.uk/weight-parentscarers.htm.