The NCMP, which measures children’s body mass index (BMI) in England, show obesity is rising among children both in their first and last years at primary school.
Overall, 9.3% of four- and five-year-olds in primary reception class in England in 2015-16 were classed as obese, up from 9.1% the previous year. The number of obese 10- and 11-year-olds in their last primary school year also rose from 19.1% to 19.8% last year – nearly one in five.
Professor Russell Viner, Officer for Health Promotion for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), said: “These latest statistics act as a stark reminder as to just how serious the UK’s obesity problem is. With over a fifth of reception children overweight or obese and a third of children in year six - a rise from last year’s figures, it is not an understatement to say we are entering a state of emergency.
“We cannot afford for the next generation of children to continue on this trajectory. Obesity is already costing the NHS over £6bn - a figure it can ill afford – thanks to the development of conditions like Type Two Diabetes and asthma, all of which we are seeing much earlier. This of course has a knock-on effect on NHS resources.
“The government said that its Childhood Obesity Plan was the start of a five year strategy. We urge them to urgently start planning further actions to prevent childhood obesity. Actions must include support for parents to reach and maintain a healthy weight before, during and after pregnancy as we know healthy parents are more likely to raise healthy children. An extension to the National Child Measurement Programme to early childhood so we are in a position to respond to any concerns at the earliest opportunity. Restrictions on junk food advertising before 9pm to protect children from direct marketing and finally, we need to be educating children from a young age on what constitutes as a nutritious meal so positive lifestyle choices are instilled early. Only then can we expect to reduce obesity levels and sustain such a trend.”
The Obesity Health Alliance (OHA) also expressed their dismay. A spokesperson, speaking on behalf of this coalition of over 30 leading health charities, campaign groups and Royal Medical Colleges, says, “Another set of childhood obesity statistics and another bleak picture. Year upon year, we are faced with sobering figures that reveal an increasingly worrying trend – the number of obese and overweight children in the UK is not falling and is in fact rising.
“Not only is the overall picture a concern, but the fact that those children from the most deprived backgrounds are significantly more likely to be overweight highlights the growing impact of health inequalities. Our recent figures show that 60% of the most deprived boys aged five to eleven are predicted to be overweight or obese by 2020, compared to about 16% of boys in the most affluent group. These poor health outcomes mean we are failing our children, and future generations, if this trend continues.
“The OHA is calling for immediate action on three fronts. Firstly, the Government’s planned soft drinks levy must be passed without dilution next year. Secondly, Government must act without delay to introduce restrictions on junk food marketing at children - both online and on TV before the 9pm watershed. And thirdly, there should be ambitious targets for sugar reduction through Public Health England’s voluntary sugar reduction programme - with widespread engagement and take-up by industry.
“Today’s figures provide yet another wake up call for all those intent on stemming the obesity epidemic –the alarm bells are ringing and there’s simply no time to hit the snooze button.”
Find out more about the Obesity Health Alliance here: http://obesityhealthalliance.org.uk/. If you want to express your concern about these figures, join in the conversation via Twitter and #TellTheresa