The Local Government Association (LGA) has released an analysis of data produced from the National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) which has found that over 22,000 of those aged 10 and 11 are severely obese.

Severely obese is the most serious category on the scale of obesity. Those whose BMI falls into that category are at risk from several grave Health problems including heart disease and high blood pressure.

The NCMP is a government-run programme of measurement of all primary school-aged children in England and Wales.

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A record of their height and weight is taken at Reception age and also when they leave Primary School. The findings indicate that between starting and leaving school, average percentage rates of schoolchildren in the “severely obese” category, almost doubles from 2.4% to 4.1%.

Figures further show that there is a gender difference in obesity with boys having higher obesity levels than girls. Ethnicity is also a factor where a difference is seen with those from black minority ethnic groups having a higher percentage of child obesity. Moreover, with regard to deprivation levels, the most deprived areas have the most severely obese children while the least deprived areas have the lowest. The LGA comments that future efforts to lower obesity need to take into account these differences when being created.

What is the government doing to tackle the issue?

In 2016, the government issued a document on childhood obesity – “Childhood obesity: a plan for action” – which received an update in January 2017. A more up-to-date strategy to combat obesity is due to be released later this year.

One of the components of the plan was to impose a sugar levy and this went into action earlier this year. It was done in an attempt to encourage drinks manufacturers to lower the amount of sugar used in their products. There has been criticism that the sugar tax only pertains to soft drinks and excludes milk-based drinks. Since milk-based drinks can have a high sugar content, the tax may not be as effective as it could be.

The government’s 2016 plan does, however, mention that drinks without the remit of the sugar tax will be tackled before 2020. More should be said when this year’s update is released.

An ongoing issue

Childhood obesity is an ongoing issue with chefs, Jamie Oliver [VIDEO] and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstail pushing for more to be done to combat childhood obesity when they met with the Health and Social Care Committee in London earlier this month. This session gave a number of experts the opportunity to voice their opinions on what they thought would be important for the next part of the government's aforementioned “Childhood obesity: a plan for action.”

Oliver called obesity a “massive problem” and argued that “every single minister” should have a part to play in tackling the issue.

Fearnley-Whittingstail, further, called for the next childhood obesity plan to be the “let’s fix it now” plan.

Moreover, the London Mayor, Sadiq Khan’s, proposal to ban all advertisements of junk food [VIDEO] from Public Transport in London in an attempt to tackle childhood obesity creating more discussion on the matter.

Obesity costs the NHS over £5 billion a year

In yesterday’s report, the LGA, which represents 370 councils across England and Wales, called on the government to make a U-turn on cuts to public health grants in addition to more reforms to combat obesity in children. The Chairman of the organisation’s Community Wellbeing Board, Councillor Izzi Seccombe, has said that “Cuts to councils’ public health grants by the government are having a significant impact on the many preventions and early intervention services carried out by councils to combat child obesity. This short-sighted approach risks causing NHS costs to snowball due to the ill health consequences of obesity in our younger generation.”

In response to the report by the LGA, a Department of Health spokesman, quoted by the BBC, has said: “Our childhood obesity plan is among the most comprehensive in the world […] However, we have always been very clear that this is not the final word on obesity, and we have not ruled out further action if the right results are not seen.”

For improvement to be made, concrete action will need to be taken.