Above average levels of childhood obesity in Peterborough - ‘bold measures’ needed

Children are more likely to be obese when they leave Peterborough’s primary schools than they were a decade ago.

Sunday, 2nd May 2021, 6:37 pm
Children are more likely to be obese when they leave Peterborough’s primary schools as they were a decade ago. Photo: PA EMN-210430-163538001

A new report from Public Health England looking back over the last 10 years has concluded there is a strong link between obesity and the poorest areas in the country.

NHS Digital data shows nearly a quarter (23%) of Year 6 pupils in Peterborough were classed as obese in 2019-20, up from 20 per cent in 2009-10 and over the national average.

And it was a similar picture for children in reception with the proportion who were obese increasing slightly to 11 per cent in 2019-20, from 10 per cent a decade before.

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Peterborough children are showing worrying increases in obesity levels, as in comparison across England, obesity among Year 6 pupils rose from 19 per cent in 2009-10 to 21 per cent in 2019-20.

In its report, PHE said rising levels of childhood obesity in deprived areas were offsetting progress seen in more prosperous areas.

Dr Alison Tedstone, PHE’s chief nutritionist, said: “Obesity is complex and is influenced by a range of factors, including education, income and the places that people live in, which may in part explain why we are seeing more overweight children in the most deprived areas.”

She added: “Too many children are living with obesity, threatening their future mental and physical health.

“Bold measures are needed to tackle this.”

They include a grant being offered to councils for child weight management services and pressure being placed on the food industry to produce healthier products.

But the NHS Confederation, a membership body for NHS organisations, said further action was urgently needed, including the restricting of fast food shops near schools and opening of more play areas and parks.

The group also wants the VAT rate raised on unhealthy foods.

Dr Layla McCay, director of policy, said: “Obesity costs the NHS more than £6 billion per year and affects people’s health throughout their lives, so it’s vital that the Government goes further and does more.”

Caroline Cerny, alliance lead at Obesity Health Alliance, said more deprived areas may not have safe and well-maintained outdoor areas for children to play, or shops selling healthier food.

She added: “Previous government efforts to reduce child obesity have focused on awareness and education. But research is clear that this approach is ineffective and does nothing address the structural causes of inequality.”

The figures come from the National Child Measurement Programme.

Each year it sees the measuring of the height and weight of a sample of children in reception and Year 6 in state-maintained schools to assess childhood obesity.

The data collection for Peterborough in 2019-20 was impacted by Covid-19 with 1,054 fewer Year 6 children measured – 25% less – compared to 2009-10.