Parliament was awash with children and young people from around the country on Monday night as they descended on the Members’ Dining Room for the annual MEND reception.
Stuffy conversation and mindless small talk was nowhere to be seen, replaced instead by children, eager to tell politicians and interested parties alike, how taking part in a MEND programme had changed their life.
Speaking to the children was a vivid demonstration of the effectiveness of the programmes, from the boy who went from only eating chicken nuggets to being partial to broccoli, to children who lacked confidence to participate in exercise who were eager to talk of their newly found prowess on the football pitch.
MEND (which stands for Mind, Exercise, Nutrition, Do it!) works in partnership with organisations based in local communities across the country, to deliver a range of weight- management, prevention and training services to local people free of charge.
Part of the success of the MEND programme is that it is not only the children who benefit from physical activity and increased knowledge about nutrition, their parents take part too.
Speaking to ePolitix.com, chief executive of MEND, Harry MacMillan said that involving the whole family was "fundamental" to the success of the programme.
"If you just involve the children you are setting up to fail, because you can teach them all kinds of things, but they are not the ones who buy the food in the household," he said.
It is not just individuals who benefit from MEND but society as whole, said Phil Veasey, strategic partnerships director at MEND.
"This event serves to illustrate children's potential; if we can work with them to return to a healthy weight, then not only are we saving the state buckets of cash, but these young people are going to make a big contribution to society, this is the big society in action," he said.
Another strength of MEND is that the programmes are produced centrally, highly research- and evidence-driven, yet they are rolled out locally. This standardised model means the programme can be rolled out by a wide range of different organisations across communities.
As an early-intervention measure it is possible that MEND programmes could struggle in the coming years to maintain funding at a local level, however MacMillan remains optimistic not only in the model and its success, but in the government’s commitment to public health.
"The new public health white paper should contain some really interesting ideas, and I like to think we have not only talked about, but demonstrated that we are a cost-effective model," he said.