Boost school nursing to tackle childhood obesity, says Unite

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Unite the union is calling for money to be redirected from the National Child Measurement Programme into creating school nursing posts to combat childhood obesity, as the latest figures show a rise in the number of school children overweight or obese.

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The union’s comments follow today’s release of the National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) figures for 2011/12, which show that one in three children in Year 6 (ten and 11-year-olds) are overweight or obese, an increase of 0.5 per cent on 2010/11.

In contrast, the proportion of reception children who are overweight or obese has remained the same at 22.6 per cent, the same percentage as last year.

According to the report from the Government’s National Child Measurement Programme in schools for 2011/12, children who were black or black British were most likely to be obese both in reception and Year 6, while Chinese children were least likely.

There was a higher proportion of obesity among reception children living in the North-East (24.5 per cent), whereas the South East Coast had the lowest prevalence (20.7 per cent).

Living in an urban rather than rural area also increased the risk of a child being obese.

Unite professional officer Ros Gordon, said, ‘It is disappointing that, despite the considerable resources given to the programme, it is only recording the problem of childhood obesity, without having any impact upon it.’

‘Unite calls for a redirection of this money into frontline school nursing services, so that the problem can be prevented.

‘Evidence shows that overweight children are likely to become overweight adults, so it is vital that qualified school nurses are employed across the country in sufficient numbers to co-ordinate all efforts to deal with this public health crisis.’

She added, ‘From next April, the responsibility for school nursing passes to local authorities in England, and many will inherit a greatly impoverished service which cannot cope with the demands. Considerable numbers of schools are now independent of local authorities, and links to integrate services have been lost.’

'Salty foods'

Researchers from Deakin University in Australia this week claimed that salt may be a silent contributor to the growing childhood obesity epidemic.

Their study of more than 4,200 children aged two-to-16, from the Australian National Children’s Nutrition and Physical Activity survey, revealed that children who ate more salty foods were more likely to consume sugary drinks, increasing their likelihood of being overweight or obese.

For every one gram of salt consumed per day, children drank 46 grams more fluid. Children who reported drinking sugar sweetened drinks consumed 17 grams for every one gram of salt.

The researchers found that children who consumed more than one sugary drink per day were 34 per cent more likely to be overweight or obese.

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