Obesity rising among reception year children

Rates of obesity in children starting school are on the rise for the second year in a row, claims Public Health England (PHE).

According to the latest figures from PHE’s National Child Measurement Programme, 9.6 percent of children aged four and five during the 2016 – 2017 school year were classed as obese, compared with 9.3 percent during 2015 – 2016.

The report highlights the need to tackle childhood obesity, claim PHE experts.

“Children deserve a healthy future and these figures are a reminder that addressing childhood obesity requires urgent action,” says PHE’s chief nutritionist, Dr Alison Tedstone.

“There is no single solution to reverse what’s been decades in the making. We need sustained actions to tackle poor diets and excess calorie intakes. We’re working with industry to make food healthier, we’ve produced guidance for councils on planning healthier towns and we’ve delivered campaigns encouraging people to choose healthier food and lead healthier lives.”

According to PHE, children who are overweight or obese are more likely to suffer from poor self-esteem, bullying and tooth decay in childhood. They are also more likely to be overweight or obese adults, which can lead to a range of preventable illnesses such as heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and some cancers.

Rich poor divide

The figures also reveal a stubborn gap between the richest and poorest families. In the most deprived areas., 12.7 percent of children in reception year are obese compared with just 5.8 percent in the least deprived. And while the obesity rate in year 6 children has remained stable at 20 percent, 26.3 percent are from the most deprived areas and 11.4 percent from the least deprived.

One of the things PHE has done to try and address the childhood obesity issue is to work towards reducing sugar and calories in food. Indeed, in April 2018, the Soft Drinks Industry Levy (or ‘sugar’ tax) will take effect, having already become law. Leading food retailers and manufacturers have announced the are – or already have – lowered the amount of sugar in their products as a result.

PHE is also responsible for the Change4Life campaign, which aims to help millions of families to make healthier choices through meal swap suggestions and the Be Food Smart app, which helps parents identify the amount of sugar, salt and fat in food.

“A healthy weight in childhood lays the foundations for decades of healthy life as an adult,” says Eustace De Sousa, National Lead for Children, Young People and Families at PHE.

“This data underlines how important it is for families to talk about health and weight as part of everyday life. Each year, more children leave primary school overweight or obese and our most deprived areas are the worst affected. It’s never too soon to make a change and there is lots of support from councils and Change4Life to help.”

Your local Careway pharmacist can also offer lots of advice to help keep your family healthy and their weight under control. Find your nearest Careway pharmacy by using our Pharmacy Finder.

If getting your child to eat healthily is a challenge, you can also find more helpful tips in our article Do your children eat their veg?