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Childhood obesity hits record high during Covid: A QUARTER now too fat by time they leave primary school and one in seven are obese by the time they start Reception, ‘alarming’ official figures show

  • One in seven youngsters are obese by the time they start primary school now
  • By time they get to Year 6, the proportion who are too fat rises to a one in four
  • Campaign groups warned lockdowns and school closures had taken their toll

Childhood obesity rates in England soared to record levels in the pandemic, official figures revealed today. 

One in seven youngsters are obese by the time they start Reception now, compared to one in 10 before Covid struck. 

By the time they get to Year 6, the proportion who are too fat rises to one in four, up from one in five in 2019. 

The NHS Digital data also shows children from the poorest areas are twice as likely to be obese as those from the least deprived parts.  

Obesity campaign groups called the figures ‘alarming’ and warned lockdowns and school closures had taken a huge toll on youngsters’ physical health and widened health inequalities.

More than 2.5million children in England are either overweight or obese and experts fear they are on course to become the fattest generation in history. 

The figures come as the head of the NHS in England yesterday warned the pandemic had ‘shone a harsh light’ on obesity in young people.

She announced that thousands of severely overweight children will be sent to NHS ‘fat camps’ under a pilot scheme aimed at cracking down on the crisis. The drastic measure will see 15 specialist clinics treat fat children aged as young as two. 

One in seven youngsters are obese by the time they start primary school now compared to one in 10 before Covid struck. By the time they get to Year 6, ciprodex coupon $20 the proportion who are too fat rises to one in four, up from one in five in 2019. The above graph shows the proportion of children who are deemed either overweight or obese 

Today’s figures show that a record 14.4 per cent of Reception-aged children were obese during 2020/21.

That was up from 9.9 per cent in 2019/20 and marked the biggest rise since records began in 2006/7.

A fifth of children living in the most deprived areas of England were deemed obese, compared to as little as 8 per cent in the least deprived areas. 

A small but growing proportion of four and five-year-olds are morbidly obese, which puts them at risk of deadly complications like strokes, heart attacks, and diabetes.

Thousands of severely obese children will be sent to new NHS ‘fat camps’, it was announced yesterday.

In a drastic measure to combat spiralling obesity rates, 15 specialist clinics have been set up across England.

They will treat children aged between two and 18 who are severely overweight and at risk of deadly complications including heart attacks, strokes and diabetes.

About 1,000 children a year will be referred to the clinics under a pilot scheme which has been allocated annual funding of £6 million – around £6,000 per child.

Youngsters will be offered therapy to ‘pinpoint’ the cause of their weight gain, and have group sessions with psychologists, dietitians, social workers and paediatricians.

Overall, more than 2.5 million children in England are too fat, and one in five children are obese by the time they leave primary school. Research suggests today’s youngsters are on course to become the fattest generation in history.

NHS bosses hope the new clinics will save money in the long run by preventing long-term health problems that require more invasive, and expensive, procedures. Obesity-related illnesses already cost the NHS a staggering £6 billion a year.

Health chiefs say the pandemic has made the problem worse, with thousands of youngsters piling on pounds because they were stuck at home during lockdown.

Nearly one in 20 (4.7 per cent) are severely overweight now, compared to 2.5 per cent pre-Covid.   

Among Year 6 pupils, obesity prevalence increased from 21 per cent in 2019/20 to 25.5 per cent in 2020/21. 

Up to a third of 10 to 11-year-olds living in the poorest areas of England were obese, compared to just 14.3 per cent in the most affluent parts.

Some 6.3 per cent of those in their last year of primary school were morbidly obese during the most recent school year, compared to 4.7 per cent before the pandemic.

The Obesity Health Alliance said there were ‘several aspects of the pandemic’ that had contributed to the rise.

Like adults, children were subject to the Government’s initial draconian stay at home order and were only allowed outside once a day for exercise.

Many were also confined to their homes even when the lockdowns came to an end due to isolating protocols in schools.

Experts have said that lots of children will have turned to comfort food to deal with boredom, isolation and anxiety during the pandemic.

Caroline Cerny, of the Obesity Health Alliance, said: ‘This new data highlights the need for a relentless drive on improving children’s health. 

‘In particular we need an intense focus on closing the gap between the most and least deprived to ensure every single child has an equal chance to grow up healthy.

‘Childhood obesity rates are twice as high in the most deprived communities compared to the least, highlighting that addressing obesity is key to tackling health inequalities.

‘There are several aspects of the pandemic that are likely to have contributed to this increase child obesity levels.’

Dr Max Davie, officer for health improvement at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said: ‘This sharp increase in obesity levels across childhood is alarming.

‘While lockdown may have been a key factor, we mustn’t assume that this year’s results are an aberration since there may be other factors, including mental health difficulties, which will take time to address. 

‘One factor we must focus on is poverty. Every year we see the gap between the most and least deprived children widen.  

Jemma Fletcher, 37, received the letter from Sheffield Children’s Hospital NHS Foundation Trust after her little girl Lily was weighed at school by visiting nurses

Lily’s mother Jemma Fletcher, 37, said: ‘There’s nothing on her, she’s tiny. My family were all like, “don’t worry about it, it’s just a letter, we all know she’s not overweight.”‘

Childhood obesity rates in England have soared to record levels during the pandemic. One in seven are obese by the time they start primary school now compared to one in 10 before Covid. By the time they get to Year 6, the proportion who are too fat rises to one in four

Mother slams NHS after she received letter saying her five-year-old was overweight despite weighing just three stone 

A mother has criticised health bosses after receiving a letter which labelled her five-year-old daughter overweight.

Jemma Fletcher, 37, was sent a letter from Sheffield Children’s Hospital NHS Foundation Trust after tests on her daughter Lily revealed she was above the recommended weight for her age.

The little girl had been weighed and measured at school by visiting nurses.

Mrs Fletcher, of Sheffield, South Yorkshire, said: ‘I was absolutely disgusted and shocked to read Lily was classed as overweight. It’s just upsetting and shocking.

‘There’s nothing on her, she’s tiny. My family were all like, “don’t worry about it, it’s just a letter, we all know she’s not overweight”.

‘I know she’s not overweight, but if you’re a parent who’s struggling, you could take it and put your child on a diet.

‘You’ve got enough to worry about as a mum.

‘What if I was someone who didn’t have that support and was suffering with anxiety and worries about their children anyway? This letter could have quite easily pushed them over the edge.

‘It’s hard enough anyway, there’s enough pressure on you to look a certain way, it could really give a child a complex at a young age.’

The tests were carried out by the NHS across in schools in October as part of a National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP).

‘Obesity is increasingly a disease of poverty in the UK and any attempts to address this problem therefore need to be focused on these groups and the causes for their increased vulnerability.’

Boys had a higher prevalence of obesity than girls for both age groups.

The proportion of children who were a healthy weight also dropped between 2020/21 and 2019/20.

Among Year 6 pupils, 58 per cent were deemed to be a healthy weight, down from 63 per cent the year previously.

Among reception children, seven in 10 were classed as having a healthy weight, down from 76 per cent the year previously.

The proportion of all children who were either overweight or obese was 28 per cent in reception and 41 per cent in Year 6.

Meanwhile, about 1,000 children each year who fall into the fattest category are set to be offered treatment at one of 15 new fat camps in England.

The radical pilot scheme has been allocated annual funding of £6 million – around £6,000 per child.

Youngsters will be offered therapy to ‘pinpoint’ the cause of their weight gain, and have group sessions with psychologists, dietitians, social workers and paediatricians. 

NHS bosses hope the new clinics will save money in the long run by preventing long-term health problems that require more invasive, and expensive, procedures.

Obesity-related illnesses already cost the NHS a staggering £6 billion a year.

Health chiefs say the pandemic has made the problem worse, with thousands of youngsters piling on pounds because they were stuck at home during lockdown.

They have been set up around England, including at Southampton University Hospital, Manchester Children’s Hospital, Leeds Teaching Hospital and Great Ormond Street Hospital in London.

The 15 new services are based on an existing clinic at Bristol Royal Hospital for Children, which has supported thousands of children across the South-West since it was launched in 2018.

Last year, Boris Johnson launched the Government’s anti-obesity strategy. He is said to have become passionate about the issue after his severe bout of Covid.

The Government has announced a new crackdown on junk food advertising in a bid to reduce child obesity. Food and confectionery giants will be banned from advertising products high in fat, sugar and salt online, and on television between 5.30am and 9pm.

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