New analysis by the Local Government Association (LGA) has revealed worrying figures regarding child obesity, saying that over 20,000 children aged ten and 11 years of age in England are classified as severely obese.
A call for further reforms to tackle child obesity has been made, as the LGA has warned that the severe child obesity rates are contributing to a multi-billion pound “ill-health time bomb”.
The figures reveal that more than 22,000 children aged ten and 11 years in their final year of primary school are classed as severely obese.
In adults a BMI of 40 or above means that an individual is severely obese, which is at least 60% higher than the upper healthy weight BMI limit of 24.9.
Drastic weight gain
Severe obesity brings with it a number of long-term health issues, including diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Obesity is also the second biggest cause of cancer and can shorten a person’s life by ten years.
The data, which is a first of its kind for 2016/17, obtained by the LGA and supplied by the National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP), reveals:
- A total of 22,646 out of 556,452 (4.1%) of ten- and 11-year-old children in Year 6 are classed as severely obese;
- This is nearly twice that of the 14,787 (out of 629,359 – 2.35%) four- and five-year-old children in Reception who are classed as severely obese, showing children are gaining weight at a drastic rate as they go through schools; and
- Severe obesity rates vary significantly by area and are highest in children living in the most-deprived towns and cities and those from BME groups, suggesting a need for the development and evaluation of more targeted interventions.
Obesity is a financial burden
The LGA has said these figures should be a “wake-up call” as the obesity crisis is costing the NHS over £5bn (~€5.7bn) a year.
Councils are spending more on running effective prevention schemes to help children stay healthy, which is key to tackling the child obesity crisis.
A “worrying wake-up call”
Councillor Izzi Seccombe, chair of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: “These new figures on severely obese children, who are in the most critical overweight category, are a further worrying wake-up call for urgent joined-up action.
“The UK is already the most obese nation in western Europe, with one in three ten- and 11-year-olds and one in five four- and five-year-olds classed as overweight or obese, respectively.”
She added: “Unless we tackle this obesity crisis, today’s obese children will become tomorrow’s obese adults whose years of healthy life will be shortened by a whole host of health problems including diabetes, cancer and heart disease.
“Cuts to councils’ public health grants by government are having a significant impact on the many prevention and early intervention services carried out by councils to combat child obesity. This short-sighted approach risks causing NHS costs to snowball due to the ill health consequences of obesity in our younger generation.
“Following the introduction of the sugar tax, we urge government to publish more details of its obesity strategy and to recognise councils’ key prevention role in tackling one of the greatest public health challenges this nation faces.”