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Record number of children are severely obese

The proportion of severely obese 10 to 11-year-olds has hit one in 25 for first time

Ingrid Torjesen

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

The proportion of children leaving primary school severely obese has hit record levels, figures from Public Health England have revealed.

Data from the National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) for 2016 to 2017 show that one in 25 pupils aged 10 and 11 are severely obese, up from one in 32 a decade ago.

The National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) captures the height and weight of over one million children in Reception (aged 4 to 5 years) and Year 6 (aged 10 to 11 years) in school each year and the latest data show that that health inequalities continue to widen. The prevalence of excess weight, obesity, overweight and severe obesity are higher in the most deprived areas compared to the least deprived, and this is trend is more marked in Year 6 than Reception.

Other observations trends shown by the data include a downward trend of excess weight, overweight, obesity and severe obesity in Reception age boys and a downward trend of underweight in Reception age boys and girls, and Year 6 girls.

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. These trends are extremely worrying and have been decades in the making – reversing them will not happen overnight.

“Unhealthy weight in childhood can result in bullying, stigma and low self-esteem. It is also likely to continue into adulthood, increasing the risk of preventable illnesses including type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.”

The Department of Health and Social Care recently announced the second chapter of its Childhood Obesity Plan to help 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.

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

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