Alarm over rising childhood obesity levels

National Child Measurement Programme shows an increase in obesity among young children.
Childhood obesity rates continue to rise

National Child Measurement Programme shows an increase in obesity among young children.

Time is running out to tackle rising levels of childhood obesity, the RCN has warned.

Childhood obesity rates continue to rise
Childhood obesity rates have risen. Picture: iStock

New data from the National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) shows that in England over a fifth of reception children and over a third of year 6 pupils are overweight or obese.

Every year reception class children – age 4-5 – and year 6 pupils, age 10-11 have their height and weight measured during the school year to inform local planning and delivery of services for children and gather data.

The statistics, for the 2015/16 school year, show that obesity levels in reception class increased to 9.3% from 9.1%, and in year six 19.8% from 19.1%.

Alarming rise

RCN professional lead for children and young people’s nursing Fiona Smith said the figures were alarming.

‘Childhood obesity has been a problem for some years now, and it is alarming that despite widespread awareness, rates continue to rise,' she said.

‘From diabetes to depression, every obese child is at risk of many more problems that can follow them into adulthood.’

She warned that the lack of improvement was ‘no surprise’ with vital nursing roles under threat such as health visitors and school nurses and said that the government’s childhood obesity plan published earlier this year did not outline the ‘dramatic action needed to tackle a national crisis’.

The NCMP also showed that obesity prevalence for children living in the most deprived areas was more than double that of those living in the least deprived areas of England.

For reception children this ranged from 5.1% in Richmond upon Thames to 14.7% in Middlesbrough.

Gender significance

Obesity levels was higher for boys than girls in both age groups.

A spokesperson for the Obesity Health Alliance called for immediate action including restrictions on junk food advertising and ‘ambitious targets for sugar reduction’ through Public Health England’s voluntary sugar reduction programme.

Professor Kevin Fenton, Public Health England national director for health and wellbeing said: ‘It is deeply worrying that more children are leaving primary school overweight or obese than ever before and levels are increasing.

‘The NCMP gives parents the opportunity to discuss their child's weight in confidence and receive expert advice on following a healthy diet and being active.’

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