Fresh fears over childhood obesity in Suffolk after rise in number of pupils starting and leaving primary school overweight or obese
Rising numbers of children are leaving primary schools in Suffolk overweight or obese, it can be revealed
Almost one in three (31.7%) 11-year-olds in the county were either overweight or obese in 2013/14 – a rise from 30.4% in the previous year.
For five-year-olds starting primary school, it rose from 20.1% to 22.1%, the NHS data also found.
The news comes despite pledges last year to reduce the number of overweight children.
Alan Murray, cabinet member for health and adult care at Suffolk County Council, said there is no “single solution” which can defeat childhood obesity but argued parents can play their part as “role models”.
Dr Murray said: “When it comes to childhood obesity, we must do everything we can to address the issue early in life to reduce the risks of health problems in the longer term. The key factors are understanding the importance of a nutritious, balanced diet and taking regular exercise.”
Broken down, the research showed that currently, by the time children start primary school in Suffolk, 8.8% are obese. The proportion rises to 17.4% by the time they finish primary school.
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A spokesman for Live Well Suffolk, a free healthy lifestyle service, said: “Obesity is becoming an increasing problem and these figures highlight that.
“It is really important for children to maintain a healthy weight, as it will help them to be more active and feel more confident. It will also help to reduce their risks of developing conditions such as type 2 diabetes in later life.”
Experts in the British Journal of Sports Medicine warned last year that Britain is falling behind its European counterparts in improving children’s health, and said PE and activities should be increased in schools.
A third of boys and a quarter of girls in England meet the minimum recommended daily physical activity levels, a study found last year, placing the extolled London 2012 Olympic legacy, ‘Inspire a Generation’, under scrutiny.
John Clough, director of Suffolk Sport, warned Suffolk “is not immune from what is clearly a national issue”.
He said: “It is now increasingly recognised that fitness levels have a vital role to play, over and above being overweight or obese.
“Providing opportunities and encouraging young people to be active every day are key to raising fitness levels and improving overall wellbeing.”
Nationally, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health has called for taxes on junk foods and action to ensure all schools teach cooking and nutrition, while GPs want better measurements of children’s weight and more training in malnutrition and obesity for doctors and nurses.
Live Well Suffolk runs a free weight management programme for overweight children aged between two and 16. Health workers help children, young people and their families understand the importance of healthy diets and encourage a more active lifestyle. For more, call 01473 229292.