Figures show first sign of success in the battle to cut child obesity

HEALTH chiefs say efforts to tackle childhood obesity are showing first signs of success as latest figures show falling numbers for the first time.

New data from the Health and Social Care Information Centre shows the proportion of 10- and 11-year-olds who were overweight or obese has dropped from 33.3 per cent to 33.2 per cent.

There was a slightly bigger fall among four and five-year-olds from 22.2 per cent to 21.8 per cent.

Nationally, the proportion of 10- and 11-year-olds who were obese or overweight fell for the first time in six years – the first recorded reduction in the history of the National Child Measurement Programme.

The report also showed obesity among children in the most deprived parts of England was almost double that of the least deprived.

Prof Kevin Fenton, national director for health and wellbeing at Public Health England, said: “This levelling off in obesity levels at both these age groups is really promising. We will be monitoring these trends very closely to see if this can be maintained over future years and have an impact on overall obesity levels in the population.

“While the results this year are positive, much remains to be done to create a sustained downward trend of obesity levels amongst children, and address health inequalities.”

Tam Fry, from the National Obesity Forum, said: “At long last, a set of obesity figures showing a faint sign of improvement.

“The Government is right not to be too cocky about it since at least two or three years of similar statistics are required before breaking open the champagne. Unfortunately, these figures don’t tell the full story – that children who are already obese are getting fatter and getting fatter earlier.”

Ann Hoskins, director for children, young people and families at Public Health England, said a range of work was under way to promote healthy weight.

“Not only does an active lifestyle help to achieve and maintain a healthy weight, but also results in other health benefits such as better fitness, mental health and sleep patterns,” she said.