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Record number of severely obese children

A record number of primary school children are leaving school severely obese, according to new figures from Public Health England.

Data for 2016/17 shows one in 25 10 to 11 year olds were severely obese.

That’s more than 22,000 children, and the highest level since records began.

Levels of childhood obesity have remained fairly stable in recent years, but the new analysis shows that severe obesity has been on an upward trend over the last decade.

The data from the National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) for children for the year 2016/17 has detailed the trends in severe obesity for the first time.

The programme found:

  • More deprived areas have a much higher rate of overweight and obese children, compared to the most well-off areas.
  • This disparity is happening at a faster rate in school leavers in year 6, than in reception age.
  • The figures did however show a downward trend of reception age boys being overweight and obese.
  • When records began in 2006/07, one in 32 primary school leavers were severely obese.
  • Severe obesity is BMI on or above the 99.6th percentile for a child’s age and sex.

Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England, said the trends were “extremely worrying and have been decades in the making – reversing them will not happen overnight.”

She said “bold measures are needed to tackle this threat to our children’s health”.

The Department of Health recently announced the second phase of its childhood obesity plan to help halve childhood obesity by 2030.

As part of that, sweets and high-fat snacks will be banned from supermarket checkouts, and there will be tighter restrictions on junk food ads on TV.

Caroline Cerny, of the Obesity Health Alliance, said the government’s obesity plans need to be “fully and swiftly implemented”.

“It’s very concerning that the number of children with a weight that is classified as severely obese is now at an all-time high. 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.”

Dr Max Davie, Officer for Health Promotion for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), said although the new data was “shocking” it was “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.”

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BBC News – Health