childhood obesity

Record number of severely obese children

The data from the National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) for children for the year 2016/17 shows one in 25 10 to 11 year olds were severely obese. 

That's more than 22,000 children, and the highest level since records began.

The data from the National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) for children for the year 2016/17 has detailed the trends in severe obesity for the first time. 

The programme found:

  • More deprived areas have a much higher rate of overweight and obese children, compared to the most well-off areas. 
  • This disparity is happening at a faster rate in school leavers in year 6, than in reception age. 
  • The figures did however show a downward trend of reception age boys being overweight and obese.
  • When records began in 2006/07, one in 32 primary school leavers were severely obese.
  • Severe obesity is BMI on or above the 99.6th percentile for a child's age and sex.

Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England, said the trends were "extremely worrying and have been decades in the making - reversing them will not happen overnight." https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-44926893 - Or click link below

Record number of severely obese children

So what is being done about this problem, or crisis if you will?

The Sugar Tax levy was introduced in April 2017, where the tax has been increased on sugary drinks companies such as Coca Cola and Pepsi. However, no additional tax has been imposed on sugary products such as sweets and biscuits etc, perhaps it should be? It has been demonstrated in the article linked above that sugary drinks consumed by 5 - 19 year olds is above 15% of their daily intake of calories, when it should be below 5%. This clearly outlines the problem and the sugar tax is the first measure to solve this problem, it will be interesting to see if the additional costs imposed on manufacturers and consumers alike will reduce these numbers. This Guardian article shows that biscuits consumed by this age group is very concerning, backed up by the BBC, who also show that biscuits, along with sweets, cakes, preserves and pastries is also very high. This highlights that the tax is warranted across all sugary items.

This would certainly be an unpopular move with adults, as we all love to indulge now and again, or perhaps too much is some cases. I suppose the biggest question is around whether this additional tax will reduce consumption of sugary drinks, and if it is proven to do so then it has been warranted. Public Health England are engaging with the food sector to reduce the amount of sugar in their products and have demonstrated in this article "We have seen some of the food industry make good progress, and they should be commended for this. We also know that further progress is in the pipeline. However, tackling the obesity crisis needs the whole food industry to step up, in particular those businesses that have as yet taken little or no action." - Duncan Selbie, chief executive at Public Health England.

One option that keeps popping up on my timeline is the need to make healthy food cheaper, whilst I do believe this would help, it does seems like an excuse to some extent. In a future article, I will research into this and form a more detailed opinion. For now, lets focus on the sugar tax and its impact.

The additional tax has been plowed into Primary Schools, schools with 16 or fewer eligible pupils receive £1,000 per pupil and schools with 17 or more eligible pupils receive £16,000 and an additional payment of £10 per pupil. There is no mention of the impact of the money in Primary Schools in this article is below. So the impact expected purely from sugar reduction is clear, but imagine the additional impact schools can have with the huge amount of money injected.

My experience is largely limited to Somerset and the South West of England, so I would be interested to know if this is replicated across the country.

I completely understand that Primary Schools have had big cuts to their budget, whilst the PE funding has significantly increased. But this is not an excuse to use the PE funding to supplement other pots of money where there are shortfalls. As has been illustrated above, significant research is being done on the impact of reducing sugar in products, but on the flip side, not enough is being done to monitor how schools are spending this money. We are on the front line, and see both obese children that are in desperate need for both healthy meals, but also additional exercise throughout the week, which is what the funding is designed for.

I would love to hear some success stories from schools and how they have spent their money and seen positive impact. My fear is that if a positive impact is not demonstrated across the country then the money will disappear and schools will still have a shortfall across the curriculum, but this will also include PE and sport.

I want to finish with a success story of a school near me, in fact my daughter will be starting there in September, St Mary's in Bridgwater. They have such a wide array of sport available to the children, they use an external coach to deliver PE lessons to the children. They have implemented 'Challenge 15' to get each child active for 15 minutes per day, 'Change for Life' clubs, Staff CPD, 'Inspired Playgrounds' and data tracking, 'Healthy Futures' initiative and a wide array of extra-curricular clubs.

I know there is a plug in here as they have bought into Inspired Playgrounds, however this article isn't about us and perhaps the biggest success story there is the amazing PE co-ordinator Sarah and the sporting ethos the school has created. They celebrate sporting achievement and activity levels and this is reinforced with awards during their celebration assemblies. I am so pleased that Isabelle got a place here, I'm sure she will love it.

To conclude, the money is there to have a real impact, please, please, please, use the money where is meant to spent. The children in this country need to be more active as we lead increasingly sedentary lifestyles, lets make a difference and make the youngsters of this nation healthier.