Suffolk and Essex: Number of obese children on the rise

THE number of overweight and obese children in Suffolk and Essex appears to have risen – although the counties are performing well compared to the rest of the country.

The figures were released yesterday by the NHS Information Centre as part of the Government’s National Child Measurement Programme.

They show that in 2009/10, 12.4% of youngsters aged four to five that come under the remit of NHS Suffolk were classed as overweight, while 8.6% were obese. A total of 5,971 youngsters were surveyed, 95.6% of all those eligible.

The year before 12.9% were overweight and 8.1% obese, with 5,604 pupils surveyed, a take up rate of 93.3%.

Meanwhile, of those in their final year of primary school in 2009/10 – aged 10 and 11 – 14% were classed as overweight and 15.3% as obese. A total of 5,706 youngsters were surveyed (94.7%). The year before 13.4% of older children were classed as overweight and 14.5% as obese, with 5,486 youngsters surveyed (89.6%).

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Michael Hattrell, a health improvement managerwith NHS Suffolk, said the increase could be put down to more youngsters being weighed and measured in 2009/10, therefore giving a more accurate picture. He said a lot of work was being done within the county to encourage youngsters to get fit – including work in schools and with Ipswich Town Football Club.

“Last year more children were weighed and measured so that has given us a more accurate picture,” he said. “Unfortunately that has meant the figure has gone up a little bit but at least those children and their families can now be given the support they need.

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“Compared to the national picture this is still very positive. A lot of work has already been done and that will continue. We want to help as many families as we possibly can tackle this difficult issue.”

In North East Essex, 14.6% of youngsters aged four and five were overweight and 9.9% were obese, according to figures for 2009/10. A total of 2,916 (94.5%) were surveyed. The year before the number was 12.5% overweight and 8.9% obese, with a total of 2,921 (91.2%) surveyed.

Of those who were of primary school leaving age in 2009/10, 13.8% were overweight and 18.1% were obese. A total of 2,932 youngsters were surveyed (89%). The year before the figure was 14% overweight and 15.9% obese, with 2,994 surveyed (89%).

Chris French, assistant director of health improvement at NHS North East Essex, said, although disappointing, the figures were around average compared to the rest of the country.

“We have instigated a number of initiatives but these take time to filter through into significant statistical improvement – up to five years,” he said. “Our MEND programme is highly acclaimed and we are working closely with Colchester United and children’s centres on exercise and nutritional initiatives.

“We know that this year a greater percentage of youngsters were measured which may well have impacted on our increase as we know from experience that heavier youngsters are the most likely to opt out.”

Nationally almost a quarter (23%) of four to five-year-olds are overweight or obese, while the figure rises to one in three (33%) of children in their final year of primary school.

If you would like more information on encouraging your child to lead a healthier lifestyle phone 01473 704030 in Suffolk and 0800 731 3133 in Essex.

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