Warning to parents over rising obesity levels

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PUBLIC health officials in Yorkshire have urged parents to ensure children have healthier lifestyles after “deeply concerning” new figures revealed rising obesity levels.

Children from deprived areas such as Rotherham and Bradford are more likely to be obese than wealthier areas - and obesity levels are getting worse in some towns.

Nationally the statistics for children aged 10 to 11 show that 24.7 per cent from low-income areas are obese, compared to 13.1 per cent in the least deprived locations.

There is a doubling of the overall obesity rate from youngsters aged four to five (9.5 per cent) to the end of primary school (19.1 per cent).

The figures, collected during the 2013/14 school year, are from the Health and Social Care Information Centre.

Eustace de Sousa, of Public Health England (PHE), described the figures - which are for children in state schools - as “deeply concerning”.

He said: “We know that over a third of children leaving primary school are overweight or obese, which makes them much more likely to be overweight or obese as adults and considerably increases their risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and other serious health problems.

“Tackling obesity, and in particular childhood obesity, has always been a national priority for PHE.”

Across Yorkshire there are wide variations in obesity levels.

In Bradford, more than 36 per cent of children aged 10 and 11 are classed as overweight or obese. Health officials said Bradford rates remained “very steady”.

Ralph Saunders, head of public health for Bradford Council, said parents needed to make sure children have healthier lifestyles.

“No-one wants to be told that their child is overweight, but we know from experience that, after the initial shock, parents begin to accept that changes are needed to ensure their children are in the best health possible.

“Around one in six of the children who were of a healthy weight in reception are now overweight now they are in Year 6. We are working hard to make sure that trend doesn’t continue and that those at a healthy weight in this year’s reception remain in that category.

“Lifestyle behaviour is a very personal issue. Our cultural beliefs and family practices have been passed down from our parents and grandparents and it is very easy not to be active and to eat unhealthy food. Over the past few years we’ve become increasingly inactive due to automation, car ownership, sedentary recreation and leisure pursuit, a decline in manual jobs, plus our children are growing up in a world of technological advancement.”

In Rotherham, the percentage of obese 10 and 11-year-olds rose from 21.1 per cent to 23.4 per cent. Those classed as overweight or obese increased from 35.2 per cent to 36 per cent.

A Rotherham Council spokeswoman said “this is a national problem and not just a Rotherham issue”.

She added: “Rotherham has commissioned weight management services for adults and children since 2009, and to date over 1,000 children have achieved weight loss through our local services.”

Work was taking place in Rotherham to “embed healthier eating from an early stage”, she added.