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Manchester United joins with UNICEF to promote healthy lifestyles for kids in China

@UNICEF/China/2012/Jerry Liu
Manchester United goal scorer Andy Cole teaches ball control skills as part of UNICEF and Shanghai CDC obesity prevention programme.

Shanghai, July 31, 2012 – UNICEF is supporting China’s effort to fight child obesity in partnership with Manchester United, one of the world’s best known football clubs.  As the first participants of UNICEF’s healthy lifestyle obesity prevention project, twenty children enjoyed a lively outdoor coaching session given by the Manchester United Foundation on the grassy training pitch of Shanghai Stadium.

Joining the session was retired Manchester United great Andy Cole, along with several coaches, trainers and staff of the famous club. The coaching session was co-organized by the Shanghai Municipal Centre for Disease Control and UNICEF.

The 13 year partnership between UNICEF and Manchester United is thought to be the longest between a football club and a global development organization. The partnership has benefitted over 2.2 million children worldwide. Since 2004, Manchester United has donated over USD 750,000 to UNICEF China for children affected by HIV and AIDS and also to help combat child trafficking.

 With Manchester United’s help, UNICEF will be able to address the alarming problem of child obesity in China for the first time. Between 1986 and 2006 child obesity in children under7 increased 2.78 fold in nine Chinese cities surveyed.

But the problem goes beyond cities. Nationwide, obesity in children aged 6-17 almost doubled – from 7.3% to 13.1% - in 8 Chinese provinces surveyed between 1991 and 2004.

At the same time, schools are woefully ill-equipped to teach children about physical fitness and healthy lifestyles. A 2005 survey revealed that 2 out of every 3 Chinese school children had less than one hour of physical exercise per day, and half of China’s 500,000 rural schools have no physical education staff or facilities.

“China is probably the only country in the world where UNICEF need to work on over-nutrition and under-nutrition at the same time,” said Robert Scherpbier, chief of Health, UNICEF China, “We want to promote a healthy life style for the children, lure them out into the fields and exercise every day for  60 minutes and more."

@UNICEF/China/2012/Jerry Liu
A Manchester United coach teaches football moves as part of UNICEF and Shanghai CDC obesity prevention programme.

“Chinese children are known for their academic excellence – but sport can teach them so much more. Other than physical fitness, there is also the spirit of team work, discipline, honor and so on. ” John Shiels Head of the Manchester United Foundation said.

The children and their guardians were also amazed to see the appearance of Andy Cole, the legendary forward of the team, who remains one of the top five scorers of the English Premier League.

“The charisma of Andy is beyond my imagination. My boy will never go to a coaching session if not for him!” A father of one of the participating children said. His 16-year-old son weighs over 90kg and is a little ‘overweight’, he admits.




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