‘Kind To Teeth’ Parent Champions are bringing happy and healthy smiles in young children in Blackburn with Darwen

‘Kind To Teeth’ Parent Champions are bringing happy and healthy smiles in young children in Blackburn with Darwen

This week, we launched our Kind to Teeth Parent Champions project, training a mixture of five parents and grandparents living in Blackburn with Darwen in a bid to support local families give their little ones a healthy smile

This new campaign has been launched this week by Food Active and Blackburn with Darwen Council aimed at training parents and carers with children under 5 to support local parents with advice on suitable drink choices to help protect their little one’s teeth.

Funded by the Big Lottery, the campaign will be promoted by 10 ‘Kind to Teeth Parent Champions’ – local parents living in the borough who over the next four weeks will be advising local parents and passing friendly advice and support on through social media networks and where possible face to face when attending baby sessions at our children’s centres, on how to promote good oral health for their children after attending a two-day training course at Livesey children’s centre.

The ‘Kind to Teeth’ campaign by Food Active focuses on drinks given to children under 5 years old, promoting only milk and water instead of sugar-laden fruit juices and cordial drinks.

The campaign is part of wider #GiveUpLovingPop  campaign, which was delivered in schools in Blackburn with Darwen in 2020 and planned again over the next 12 months.

The ‘Parent Champions’ model is delivered by parents for parents, with the support of a local authority, children’s centre, school or local community organisation. It uses the knowledge that parents trust other parents for information about childcare, to reach out to those who do not access services and to ensure that information is received by all those who need it.

The early years are a great opportunity to influence healthy drink choices which can have a positive impact on oral health. Yet many young children in Blackburn with Darwen are experiencing tooth decay from an early age.

20% of three year olds in Blackburn with Darwen have experience of visually obvious tooth decay. This rises to 50% by the time they start school at the age of 4-5 years old[3] – and sugary drinks are a major part of this growing problem. An analysis of over 200 fruit juices marketed to under-5’s found that almost half contained at least a child’s entire daily recommended maximum sugar intake of 19g.

Not only can this have a negative impact on young children’s oral health, but it can lead to children becoming accustomed to sweet tastes which may lead to further health complications later in life such as weight gain, obesity and chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes[4].

To combat this, Food Active and Blackburn with Darwen Council and children’s centres have teamed up to create a new project that harnessing the power of peer-to-peer support to spread the message that milk or water are the best sources of hydration for babies and infants.

The campaign builds on government guidance that that babies should only consume breast milk (or formula milk) for at least six months, then gradual appropriate complimentary food and drink can be introduced. Plain milk and water are recommended as the best source of hydration for babies and young children.

At the training, the new children’s book ‘Max’s Not So Sweet Dream’ was launched, which has been developed as part of the Pennine Lancashire Healthier Place, Healthier Future (HPHF) Trailblazer Programme.  HPHF is one of five Childhood Obesity Trailblazer programmes funded by the Department of Health and Social Care and delivered by the Local Government Association, designed to give local authorities the power and support to test existing levers within their control and to identify opportunities to support healthy weight and reduce levels of childhood obesity. ‘Max’s Not So Sweet Dream’ was developed in consultation with local parents, is aimed at children 4-9 years old and uses some of the key messages from the Kind to Teeth campaign to highlight the importance of eating well to keep your teeth clean and stay healthy.

The Kind to Teeth Parent Champions project in Blackburn will be taking place over the next 4 weeks, with plans to deliver another campaign in the winter.

If you have any questions or would like to find out more about this approach, please email beth.bradshaw@foodactive.org.uk

[1] Food Active is a regional charity which aims to make it easier for children, young people and families to lead a healthy lifestyle through changes to their local environment. They are also the delivery partner for the Pennine Lancashire Healthier Place, Healthier Future Trailblazer. For more information, please visit: www.foodactive.org.uk

[2] The Give Up Loving Pop campaign aims to raise awareness of the health harms of consuming too many sugary drinks, and promoting milk and water as healthier alternatives. www.giveuplovingpop.org.uk

[3] Public Health England (2019) Oral health profiles: fignertips data [online]. https://fingertips.phe.org.uk/profile/child-health-profiles/data#page/0/gid/1938133263/pat/6/par/E12000002/ati/302/iid/93563/age/34/sex/4/cat/-1/ctp/-1/cid/4/tbm/1

[4] NHS England (2020) Sugar and health: the facts [online] https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/how-does-sugar-in-our-diet-affect-our-health/

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