Why a Publishing Company is Thinking About Childhood Obesity

Hi there, and welcome to the first in a series of posts about our latest project: healthy eating in children.

But before we get into that, I should probably explain who we are and why a publishing company is bothered about what children eat.

So what is the Usborne Foundation?

You may have already heard of Usborne Publishing — now the largest independent children’s book publisher in the UK.

You may also know that Usborne is still owned and managed by Peter Usborne MBE. Peter has long been an advocate of supporting issues related to childhood development, and set up the Usborne Foundation in 2007 with his children Nicola and Martin. The Foundation aims to use Usborne’s expertise in storytelling combined with technology to tackle today’s big issues.

The Foundation’s first project was Teach Your Monster to Read: a series of games built in collaboration with University of Roehampton and a team of top production talent, including the game studio Popleaf, illustrator Rich Wake and Simon Farnaby from BBC’s Horrible Histories.

Teach Your Monster to Read uses characters, story and play to help children learn to read. The game is now helping over 1 million children learn to read each year.

From literacy to health

Early in 2016, Peter heard a speech by Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of NHS England. The talk focussed heavily on the ongoing childhood obesity epidemic in the UK.

British children are now the second heaviest in Europe, with 1 in 3 leaving primary either overweight or obese. This epidemic, which is getting worse each year, is costing the NHS £5 billion each year in weight-related health issues such as Type 2 diabetes.

Apart from the obvious impact this has on children’s health, energy and self-esteem, it also has a knock on effect on attention spans and as a result educational attainment. An overweight child is also highly likely to struggle with their weight as an adult too.

And with that, Peter was determined to do something about it.

We have spent the last 9 months talking to everyone we can who is in some way connected to the childhood obesity problem including Public Health England, British Nutrition Foundation, the Jamie Oliver Foundation, the Children’s Food Trust and many, many, many more! (Watch this space, there will be a whole post just on this.)

We have learnt as much as we can about the problem, and all the various products, services, campaigns and consultants who are trying to make a difference for children up and down the country. We have narrowed our focus and chosen a specific slice of this HUGE problem to tackle, assembled a great team of researchers, designers, game designers, teachers and experts; and started creating prototypes to test with children, their teachers and families.

Follow our channel to read more about what we’ve learnt so far, our research and design process, and all the other amazing initiatives that we’ve discovered along the way.