More children leaving primary school 'severely obese' than ever before

One in 25 children in England aged 10 or 11 leave school severely obese, new data shows. [Photo: Getty]

Childhood obesity seems to be one UK health problem that isn’t kicking without a fight.

It seems like just yesterday that Jamie Oliver campaigned for healthier school dinners, when he launched his Feed Me Better initiative in 2005.

And while the campaign had some short term successes, it appears health epidemic stretches far beyond the power of just one man, with the childhood obesity problem in the UK now worse than ever.

New analysis has found that one in 25 children in England aged 10 or 11 are severely obese, according to the BBC News. 

Measurements on children’s weight and height show the number of children classed as ‘severely overweight’ rose from 15,000 in reception to 22,000 by their final year of primary school.

The data was collected as part of Public Health England figures, and was analysed by The Local Government Association (LGA)

The LGA represents 370 councils in England and Wales.

What does the data say and how is it collected?

The weight and height of all children in England is measured twice under the government’s national child measurement programme: once when they start primary school and once when they leave.

The latest figures from 2016-17, showed that about 1 in 40 (15,000 out of 629,000) children in reception (age 4 – 5), was classed as severely obese.

By the end of their primary school tenure (age 10 -11) more than one in 25 children (22,000 out of 556,000) were classed as obese.

This is the first national child measurement programme data where a ‘severely obese’ category has been added.

Izzi Seccombe, chairwoman 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.”

She said that unless the problem is tackled “today’s obese children will become tomorrow’s obese adults”.

How does the UK compare to the rest of Europe?

Seccombe added that the UK’s children are the most obese in Western Europe.

Just last week, data collected as part of the Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative of the World Health Organisation’s European region, showed that Mediterranean countries such as Cyprus, Greece, Spain and Italy have some fattest children in Europe.

However, the UK did not participate in the data collection, taken from 40 counties involved.

In 2016, the government launched its childhood obesity plan which introduced a sugar tax on sugary drinks, implemented in April of this year.

At  the time, a spokesman from the Department of Health said: “Our childhood obesity plan is among the most comprehensive in the world.

“However, we have always been very clear that this is the not the final word on obesity, and we have not ruled out further action if the right results are not seen.”

How can you manage your child’s health?

In January, Public Health England encouraged parents to count the calories in their child’s snacks.

Each year, children consume almost 400 biscuits, more than 120 cakes, 100 sweets, 70 chocolate bars and 70 ice creams, washed down with more than 150 juice drink pouches and cans of fizzy drink.

Because of the alarming figures, the health body called on parents to be tougher on their kids snacking of sweets, cakes and fizzy drinks between meals.

The Change4Life campaign urged mums and dads to limit snacks to just two a day of no more than 100 calories each.

Snacks containing no more than 100 calories:

  • Soreen malt lunchbox loaves (apple, banana or original malt)
  • Petits Filous fromage frais (strawberry and raspberry, strawberry, strawberry and apricot, strawberry and banana)
  • Fruit Shoot hydro water in apple and blackcurrant flavour
  • Fresh or tinned fruit salad
  • Chopped vegetables and lower fat hummus
  • Plain rice cakes or crackers with lower fat cheese
  • Sugar-free jelly
  • One crumpet
  • One scotch pancake

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