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Healthy Play project - discussion document


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What follows are some of my own preliminary perspectives regarding the logistics of setting up a viable Healthy Play project. It’s intended to help concentrate minds, generate ideas, flag up potential problems and solutions. It’s in no way the finished article; clarification and criticism is openly encouraged. Paul Hill 18th June 2007

The Healthy Play Project

Healthy Play is an exciting new Hackney-based community project combining the best available health and nutritional education with innovative childcare & playwork.

Healthy Play is part of the education, nutrition and health charity The McCarrison Society.

In addition, providing key support, advice and project development are The Mother and Child Foundation, The Institute of Brain Chemistry & Human Nutrition at Metropolitan University, Albion Kids Show and Hackney Playbus.

The Project will be located in premises kindly donated by The Mother and Child Foundation in Well Street Market, Hackney E9 and is provisionally called The Healthy Play Centre.

In the first instance the Centre will open using start-up community funding.

It will begin by offering

  1. day-time pre-school mother & child play sessions augmented with nutritional advice.
  2. for 5 – 11 year olds, after-school play and healthy living sessions.

In between, the Centre will open as an informal drop-in point - providing relevant literature, advice and contacts for members of the public whilst creating general profile development.

This will allow the Centre to grow organically, attracting parents, carers, young people and volunteers, establishing a dynamic community project.

As well as being exciting and innovative the Centre should be meticulous in following best practice. It should get OFSTED registered as it will be providing creche-type care TBB, making sure the property is fit for purpose, health and safety etc. A preliminary survey with a small amount of voluntary assistance from a local architect is scheduled for this week TBB. All staff will be CRB checked. The Centre will incorporate essential documents like equal opportunities, a code of practice etc.

The initial staff team will be 1 coordinator/fundraiser/admin, 2 playworkers and a nutritional advisor. The health of the project will be reflected in how it is able to attract voluntary support. Local volunteers ground a project, keeping it suitable and relevant. A volunteer group should be set up quickly.

It will be essential to establish a reliable interface between the Centre and its host charity.

Suitable financial arrangements should be established enabling Healthy Play to access funding it has been granted, keeping clear demarcation from all other McCarrison Society finances, enabling prompt payment of wages & bills, efficient accounting and general staff & management committee issues.

Regular meetings should take place with the Centre and its key institutional supporters to keep everyone in the loop, up to date, pushing the project on, support chains etc.

It’s important the Centre looks and feels good. Unfortunately far too many community projects fail because they don’t connect with their target-audience - resembling waiting rooms or dusty offices. This project should from the outset announce itself as a nurturing and vibrant environment. Help should be canvassed from any sympathetic local architects, designers & visual artists. Initially, play resources for the Centre can be begged, stolen & borrowed from Albion Kids Show & Hackney Playbus & other sources (Hackney Scrap project, a toys wanted ad etc)

Once open the Centre can start to apply for project funding. This should be done in full consultation with users, but preliminary ideas include:

  • School holiday projects.
  • A Saturday project.
  • An 11-16 age range project.
  • A nutritional cooking project.
  • A mother and child home visit project.
  • Healthy living & lifestyle activity packs.
  • Grow your own vegetables project.
  • Funding for visits from local role-models e.g. artists, chefs, vets etc.
  • Funding for trips to nature reserves (Lee Valley, Epping etc), city farms etc.
  • An outreach project – playworkers and nutritionists delivering sessions in surrounding estates and parks.
  • A training project for playworkers in nutrition & vice-versa.
  • A project for a nutritional researcher and students.
  • Nutritional and play mapping.
  • A Healthy Play conference.
  • Applying for improvement of Centre play areas e.g. softplay, disability & inclusion.

Also development of innovative health education facilities in the Centre– an interactive brain zone!

The Centre will need to network & establish good relations within the local authority, voluntary sector and community. E.g. Surestart, The Learning Trust, local social landlords, Bangladeshi Cultural Association, Hackney Play Association, Hackney Community Voluntary Service, market traders, Police, new City-based Good Neighbours charity, NHS Primary Care Trust for liaison with School Nurses etc.

A timetable for beginning the project should be established, roughly 3 months from posting the first funding application.

More tiny babies being born in UK

BBC TV News carries a report from the Fabian Society today (27 March 2007) BBC Video

More babies are born at dangerously low birth weights in Britain now than in 1989, a report says.
The study was carried out by the Fabian Society, a left-leaning think-tank, which called the finding a "scar on the national conscience".

The Chair of the McCarrison Society wrote to Gordon Brown in 2005 alerting him to the impact in the UK of poor diet and poverty on low birthweight and the sharp rise in mental ill health amongst young people. Read here or download a copy of "Women will eliminate poverty in the UK". We would like to think this stimulated him to ask Sir David Cooksey to report on NHS and MRC medical research effectiveness, but the report does not adequately address research on prevention - see the Chair's comment here or download  "Memorandum Regarding The Cooksey Report On Medical Research"

To comment on this debate, please go to the WIKI Discussion Space {}

Scotland: pilot for free school meals in Primary One from June 2007

A new pilot scheme was launched in June 2007 in which Primary One pupils in some of Scotland's most deprived areas will all receive free meals. If seen to be successful, the scheme will then be rolled out so that all entry pupils can eat for nothing.  The meals will all follow rigorous nutrition standards, as ministers increase their efforts to stamp out child obesity and poor health.
For the full article:

Childrens' healthy bodies and minds, malnutrition and education, dysfunctional families and ADHD

As reported in the Guardian recently, the International Obesity TaskForce stated "Youngsters should be protected from exploitative marketing techniques used on the internet as well as from television advertising as part of an all out bid to halt the rise in childhood obesity".

Today (12 Sept 2006) on BBC R4's Today Programme , Professor Susan Greenfield and author Michael Morpurgo discussed "The cocktail of modern culture that's making our children miserable" - the influences of "modern life" (my quotes) on the development of children's brains. Included were some pros and cons of fantasy PC games: do they stimulate imagination, or stultify it by providing on-screen images or icons for situations that would really have to be imagined if read from a book or related at Mother's knee. We now know that some such games, text messaging etc are being used by the food industry to sell junk food directly to children, probably without the understanding of their parents or other controls.

Read more: Childrens' healthy bodies and minds, malnutrition and education, dysfunctional families and ADHD