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Childhood obesity reaching state of emergency

Friday 4th November 2016
Childhood obesity levels in the UK are reaching emergency levels, health experts warn. Image: kwanchaichaiudom via iStock
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The UK's childhood obesity levels are nearing a 'state of emergency', health experts are warning.

New statistics published as part of the National Child Measurement Programme reveal that the number of obese under-18s has increased slightly over the past year, rising from 19.1 per cent of ten to 11-year-olds 12 months ago to 19.8 per cent today.

Meanwhile, obesity levels among four and five-year-olds have risen from 9.1 per cent to 9.3 per cent this year, leading Professor Russell Viner of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health to say: "It is not an understatement to say we are entering a state of emergency."

He called on the government to take action to implement additional measures aimed at tackling the growing problem of childhood obesity, with dieticians set to play an important role in delivering any new initiatives designed to improve children's diet and health.

It is now six years since the National Child Measurement Programme began in schools, designed to keep track of children's weight, before suggesting to their parents where lifestyle changes could be made with advice from dieticians and other health experts.

This year's increase in obesity levels was the biggest rise recorded since the programme began, indicating that unless significant action is taken, childhood obesity will spiral even further, creating a whole generation of people at high risk of type 2 diabetes, heart failure and certain types of cancer.

Data showed that children living in Richmond upon Thames were among the least likely to be obese with a rate of 11 per cent, while Barking and Dagenham had a childhood obesity rate of 28.5 per cent. This suggests that there may be socioeconomic factors influencing lifestyle habits and obesity risk.

What's more, when the figures for overweight children are also taken into account, 34.2 per cent of ten to 11-year-olds in the country are then classed as either overweight or obese, along with almost one-quarter (22.1 per cent) of four and five-year-olds.

Written by Martin Lambert

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