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Type 2 diabetes cases among children and young people soar

40 per cent rise in four years, latest specialist unit data show

Caroline White

Monday, 20 August 2018

The number of children and young people being treated for type 2 diabetes in England and Wales has soared by around 40 per cent in just four years, says the Local Government Association (LGA).

The LGA, which represents 370 councils in England and Wales, says that urgent action is needed to tackle the childhood overweight/obesity crisis─ the single biggest risk factor for the disease.

Data from the National Child Measurement Programme show that one in five 10 and 11-year-olds, and one in 10 four and five-year-olds, are obese. If those who are overweight are included, the rates rise to a third and a fifth, respectively.

The latest figures on type 2 diabetes, which come from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health 2016-17 audit* of children’s diabetes units, show that 715 children and young people under the age of 25 were treated for type 2 diabetes in England and Wales: 78.6 per cent were also obese.

This means the incidence of this disease has risen by 41 per cent since 2013-14 when 507 cases were reported in this age group.

But as these figures only relate to those treated only in specialist units, the actual number of young people with type 2 diabetes is likely to be even higher, warns the LGA.

The first cases of type 2 diabetes in children were diagnosed in overweight girls of Asian ethnic origin in 2000 and first reported in white adolescents in 2002.

More needs to be done to reach out to black and minority ethnic groups, where there is a disproportionately higher number of children and young people with type 2 diabetes. Nearly half of those receiving care for the condition in specialist units were black or Asian, the figures show.

Earlier this year, the LGA revealed that 22,000 children are classed as severely obese – the most overweight scale – when they leave primary school.

The government should reverse the £600 million cut to councils’ public health funding, which is used to fight obesity, says the LGA, which is now calling for specialised support for the most seriously obese children.

Councillor Izzi Seccombe, who chairs the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board, commented: “These figures are a sad indictment of how we have collectively failed as a society to tackle childhood obesity, one of the biggest health challenges we face.

“Type 2 diabetes typically develops in adults over the age of 40, so while still rare in children, it is extremely worrying that we are seeing more young people develop the condition.”

She added that while not all the risk factors for type 2 diabetes can be controlled, that doesn’t apply to overweight/obesity.

“The government’s childhood obesity plan sets out bold ambitions to halve the number of obese children by 2030. But we need urgent action now. Type 2 diabetes can be a lifelong debilitating illness and these figures will only multiply if we delay,” she insisted.

“Councils with their public health responsibilities are on the frontline fighting obesity, but for this to work effectively they need to be properly resourced. Cutting their public health funding is short-sighted and undermines any attempt to help our children live healthy and fulfilling lives.”

*National Paediatric Diabetes Audit 2016-2017. Report produced by the National Paediatric Diabetes Audit and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, 2018.

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