The poorest children in England are three times more likely to be obese, compared with the richest.  Why?  The social and economic factors that cause this are complex – big disparities in wealth, employment, education and housing to name a few.  The inequity that stems from where you chance to be born is unjust.  Take the Jubilee Tube Line for example.  Men and women born near Oxford Circus live up to ten years longer than those born near Star Lane.  Successive governments of all colours have tried to tackle the problem of inequalities; few have made inroads.

All agree that a complex problem needs a sophisticated solution.  When it comes to improving the health of our poorest communities, there isn’t a simple fix.  The answer, if not the power to do something about it, lies within the communities who are living the disadvantage every day.  Lived experience is an immensely powerful agent when it comes to making things better.  This is not about those who have power showing empathy; it is about those who are powerless being granted agency.  Partnerships, access and resources are all important; an injection of funding is essential; but putting what people themselves believe needs to be done, whatever it is, at the top of the list is critical.  Without that, nothing will change.

Charities like StreetGames, who champion social action, are helping.  Being active is not, in itself, an answer to obesity, but it helps.  Young people who get active and stay active, whatever their social background, have better physical health and mental wellbeing.  Apparently they do better at school and college as well, improving their chances of employment.  If, as StreetGames encourages, they organise their own sport and activities themselves, they are more likely to keep it going and have lots of fun in the process.  Youth health really does matter.

As a member of the Young People’s Health Partnership, StreetGames is assisting youth agencies and community groups up and down the land to put young people in the saddle.  We share a moral duty to tackle the disadvantage that blights young lives.  If you’d like to join us or know more, we would love to hear from you.

Paul Jarvis-Beesley

Head of Sport & Health



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