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WATCH: Childhood obesity rises in the South West

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Published by Sarah Yeoman at 4:43pm 11th October 2018.

Childhood obesity is rising in 10 to 11-year-olds in the South West.

New figures show the proportion of Year 6 pupils who are overweight and obese in the region has risen to 30.3% in 2017/18 - a slight increase from 30.1% in 2016.

The data is taken from the National Child Measurement Programme, which shows nationally, the rate of severe obesity among Year 6 children has increased by more than a third since 2006/7 to 4.2%, its highest rate ever.
In the South West this figure is lower than the national figure at 3.2%.

The national data also shows stubborn inequalities persist, with obesity in the most deprived areas of England more than double that of those living in the least deprived.

In the most deprived areas in England, 12.8% of children in Reception Year and 26.8% in Year 6 are obese, compared to 5.7% and 11.7% respectively in the least deprived.

This highlights the importance of the government's steps to tackle childhood obesity, key aspects of which are overseen by Public Health England, including its challenge to the food industry to reduce 20% of sugar and calories in everyday foods consumed regularly by children.

This week, Public Health England met with key trade bodies, retailers, manufacturers, out of home sector businesses - including takeaways, cafes and pubs - and public health Non-Government Organisations to discuss the next phase of the calorie reduction programme.

The second chapter of the government's Childhood Obesity Plan was published in June 2018 and includes mandatory calorie labelling in the out of home sector, a restriction on price promotions on unhealthy foods and a ban on the sale of energy drinks to children.

"These continuing high rates of childhood obesity, combined with widening health inequalities, highlight why government is taking bold steps to tackle this crisis.

"This threat to our children's health has been decades in the making - we're moving in the right direction but reversing it will not happen overnight."

Justine Womack, Health and Wellbeing Programme manager for PHE South West

Children with excess weight are more likely to suffer from poor self-esteem, bullying and stigma in childhood.

They are also more likely to be overweight or obese as adults, increasing their risk of preventable illnesses including heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.

PHE's Change4Life campaigns also help millions of families to make healthier choices through meal swap suggestions and the Food Scanner app, which reveals the sugar, salt and fat in foods and drinks.

Change4Life also supports schools to embed healthier habits into everyday school life.

"These figures are a stark reminder that addressing childhood obesity is everyone's problem.

"We owe it to current and future generations to act now.

"Everyone - from the food industry to local councils - should play their part, but families can also make positive changes with help from Change4Life."

Eustace De Sousa, national lead for children at PHE

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