Tenth of Suffolk children become obese or overweight during primary school years
- Credit: Archant
One in 10 Suffolk children will become obese or overweight before leaving primary school, new figures have revealed.
Although efforts to reverse early childhood obesity have paid off in the last year – with fewer obese or overweight children entering reception – almost a third are obese or overweight when they leave school.
The percentage of obese or overweight five-year-olds fell to 20.9% in 2014/15, from 22.1% the previous year, but remained higher than in 2012/13 (20.1%).
Figures also revealed 31.8% of 11-year-olds in the county were either obese or overweight – a slight rise on the previous year’s figure of 31.7%, and up further on 2012/13 (30.4%).
The programme involved 7,170 year six pupils and 7,666 reception children across Suffolk – home to fewer obese but more overweight children than the national average.
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Prevalence of obese year six children across England was 19.1% compared to 16.7% here – but 15.1% were overweight in this county, compared to 14.2% nationally.
Experts are heartened by the drop in numbers for younger children.
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Dr Imran Qureshi, Leiston GP and member of the Ipswich and East Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “It is encouraging to see more children at a healthy weight, and we fully support the public health team in Suffolk, which leads on the work to encourage people to eat well and exercise often.
“There is good evidence to link the education attainment to activity, which is obviously related to keeping a healthy weight. With improved fitness and activity, we will see improved education rates which will support young people in Suffolk build better futures.”
Heather Osborn, head of children’s weight management at Live Well Suffolk, said obesity remained a problem, highlighting the importance maintaining a healthy weight to help reduce risk of conditions such as type two diabetes in later life.
She added: “We deliver ‘Lose Weight with Live Well Suffolk’ which is a free weight management programme for children, specifically designed for those aged between two and 16 years who are above a healthy weight.
“We work with children, young people and their families to help them understand more about healthy diets and introduce more physical activity into their daily routines.”
More children left school obese or overweight in Ipswich (34.8%) than in any other parts of the county.
The percentage rose 14% over the six years of primary school – a difference narrower in all other area except for Forest Heath (14.6%).
Eustace De Sousa, national lead for children, young people and families at Public Health England (PHE), said that while it was encouraging to see numbers levelling off, the figures were still “unacceptably high” and much worse in the poorest areas.
“The doubling of obesity levels between ages four and 11 is deeply concerning and highlights that much more needs to be done to help children and families,” he added.
PHE’s Change4Life healthy eating campaign launches in January 2016.
For more on Live Well Suffolk’s free child weight management programme, visit livewellsuffolk.org.uk or call 01473 229292.