Obesity will continue to rise globally 'until at least 2030'

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Nearly one in six children is overweight or obese in the OECD area, according to a new update.

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Obesity is rising throughout the OECD countries

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has released the Obesity Update, which has recorded data for 30 OECD countries and partner countries.

In England, the most recent data shows an average of 11.55 per cent of children aged between three- and 17-years-old are obese, with trends going upward for both boys and girls since 2012.

Boys are more obese in England than girls, according to the most recent data for the country, which shows that 10.75 per cent of girls but 12.35 per cent of boys are obese.

More than one in two adults in the OECD area are overweight or obese, according to the update.

The UK is sixth out of the OECD countries in adult obesity rates, just behind the United States, Mexico, New Zealand, Hungary and Australia, with 26.9 per cent of the British population aged over 15 found to be obese.

The research predicts a continued increase in obesity levels in all studied countries until at least 2030. Obesity levels are expected to remain particularly high in England, Mexico and the US, where 35 per cent, 39 per cent and 47 per cent of the population respectively are projected to be obese by 2030.

The update also explores a number of policy initiatives designed to tackle childhood obesity across the 30 OECD countries in recent years.

Chile, Iceland, Ireland, and Mexico, according to the update, have banned advertising of food and beverages on television and radio during peak child audience hours, while similar advertising bans apply on public buses in Canberra, Australia and in cinemas in Norway. While the OECD has not yet evaluated the impact of these polices, it said early evidence suggests they ‘empower people to make healthier choices, and can also affect food manufacturers’ behaviours’.

The Obesity Update also reports that OECD countries are using national campaigns to promote healthy lifestyles. It lists Canada’s ‘Healthy Eating Strategy’ aiming to introduce new nutrition labelling and restrict marketing of unhealthy food and drinks to children, Ireland’s ‘A Healthy Weight for Ireland 2016-2025’, which includes the preparation of legislation on calorie labelling and a voluntary code of practice on food advertising, and Turkey’s ‘Promoting Physical Activity Project’, which sees 275,000 bicycles distributed to schools, universities and NGOs.

In March, Nursery World reported on a call by the Health Select Committee for more robust action by the Government to tackle childhood obesity, suggesting a range of measures to regulate junk food adverts seen by children on TV and a price difference between high and low-or no-sugar drinks, and recommending the levy on sugary drinks be extended to milk-based drinks that have added sugar.

Dr Lala Manners, director of Active Matters, said, ‘We really do need to start intervening long before children get to this point. The figures for early years in the UK tell us that around 12 per cent of children arrive overweight or obese at nursery. The early years community and the health community must work together to stop this happening in the first place.

‘The early years community is uniquely placed to help the health community because we see children every day, and we must play a more visible and proactive role in supporting children. The healthcare community can start with getting expectant mums to have their check at 38 weeks, and then the early years workforce can pick it up by ensuring settings are a place of wellbeing, and getting upskilled to address issues with parents, and be good role models by being active themselves.’

Tam Fry, chair of the National Obesity Forum, added, ‘The sad truth is that every OECD update simply confirms that one of the world's most concerning health issues is just getting worse.’

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