walkCharity Living Streets has responded to new Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) statistics showing that one in three children leave primary school overweight by calling for more local authorites to recommend their Walk to School programme.

The percentage of final year primary school children who were overweight or obese increased to 33.9 per cent in 2011/12, up from 33.4 per cent in the previous year and Living Streets' chief executive Tony Armstrong believes this is no surprise given the lack of children who walk to school.

"As the number of children walking to school has decreased - currently only 48% - it's not surprising that obesity rates are rising," he said.

"Less than a third of boys and less than a quarter of girls get the recommended one hour of exercise each day. Walking to school is an easy way to fit some physical activity into their day and build healthy habits for the future.  Our Walk to School programmes achieve a 32% increase in the number of children walking to school.  They are healthier, have better concentration levels in class and learn valuable road safety skills.

"This is an issue of public health so there is a clear imperative for local authorities to ensure there are safe walking routes and well-designed and maintained streets for our children to enjoy."

Living Streets runs successful other projects to encourage people to walk such as WOW (Walk Once a Week) and Walk to Work Week which are aimed at counteracting the increase prevalence of unhealthy children.

Other findings in the HSCIC report include:
• North East Strategic Health Authority had the highest recorded prevalence among Reception Year children (24.5 per cent) while South East Coast had the lowest prevalence (20.7 per cent).
• London SHA had the highest recorded prevalence among Year 6 children (37.5 per cent) while South Central and South East Coast had the lowest recorded prevalence (30.8 per cent).
Obese children
• Prevalence among children in both Reception Year and Year 6 increased in relation to deprivation levels - with children in the ten per cent most deprived areas more likely to be obese (12.3 per cent and 24.3 per cent respectively) than those in the ten per cent least deprived areas (6.8 per cent and 13.7 per cent).
• Year 6 children in urban areas were more likely to be obese (19.9 per cent) compared to those in towns and suburbs (16.3 per cent) and those in rural locations (15.6 per cent). A similar pattern was seen for Reception Year children (9.8 per cent, 8.1 per cent and 7.8 per cent respectively).
• Children who were Black or Black British were most likely to be obese both in Reception Year (15.6 per cent) and Year 6 (27.5 per cent) while Chinese children were those least likely to be obese both in Reception Year (7.3 per cent) and Year 6 (16.7 per cent).

For more information visitwww.livingstreets.org.uk   

Posted 13/12/2012 by richard.hook@pavpub.com