Severe obesity at its highest-ever rate in Year 6 children

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Levels of severe obesity in children aged 10 to 11 years have reached the highest point since records began.

One in 25 10 to 11 year olds in 2016/17 were found to be severely obese, or over 22,000 children. In 2006/07, when records began, one in 32 Year 6 children were classified as severely obese.

Analysis of the National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) between 2006 to 2007 and 2016 to 2017 has detailed trends in severe obesity for the first time.

The programme recorded the height and weight of over one million children in Reception and Year 6 for each year.

The new figures are published by Public Health England (PHE).

Findings of the analysis include:

  • More deprived areas have a higher rate of overweight and obese children than more well-off areas
  • this disparity is growing faster in Year 6 than Reception
  • excess weight, obesity and severe obesity is increasing in Year 6 children
  • excess weight, overweight, obesity and severe obesity is decreasing in Reception age boys
  • a reduction in the number of children who are underweight among Reception age boys and girls, and Year 6 girls

As part of its work to reduce childhood obesity, PHE is working with the food industry to cut 20 per cent of sugar from everyday products by 2020, and 20 per cent of calories by 2024.

Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at PHE, said, ‘The rise in severe obesity and widening health inequalities highlight why bold measures are needed to tackle this threat to our children’s health.’

In June, the Department of Health and Social Care announced the second chapter of its Childhood Obesity Plan, which aims to halve childhood obesity by 2030. Main actions include mandatory calorie labelling on menus and restrictions on price promotions on foods high in fat, salt or sugar. These measures will go out for consultation later in 2018.

However, experts have called on the Government to move quickly to combat the rising levels of obesity. Dr Max Davie, officer for health promotion at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), said the data was ‘shocking’ but not surprising.

‘The Government’s childhood obesity plan is encouraging but if the policies within it are not quickly enacted, more children are going to face a life that’s limited in quality and expectancy,’ he said.

‘Obesity is entirely preventable so this new data should be the springboard the Government needs in order to put these policies in place and begin turning around lives.’

Caroline Cerny, alliance lead for the Obesity Health Alliance, said, ‘Children with obesity are five times more likely to have obesity as adults, putting them at risk of diseases including Type 2 diabetes, cancer, heart and liver disease, as well as associated mental health conditions.

‘The Government has recently set out some bold plans with an ambition of halving childhood obesity by 2030, including a 9pm watershed on junk food adverts. We need all these measures to be fully and swiftly implemented to help ensure all children have the healthiest possible start in life.’

Annie Denny, nutrition development manager for the Early Years Nutrition (EYN) Partnership, added, ‘Significant action is needed in order to reduce the prevalence of childhood obesity and at the EYN Partnership we believe that this needs to begin in the early years, as well as schools, through a whole-setting approach to nutrition practice, education and physical activity.’

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