Levels of serious obesity amongst children in the final year of primary school have hit an all-time high, according to official figures that have disheartened public health experts.
A day after the outgoing chief medical officer called for stricter action from the government to confront and tackle childhood obesity, data from the child measurement program showed 4.4% (26,000) of year 6 children, aged 10 to 11, were severely obese, a definition which means they require medical help.
Overweight and obesity has continued to increase among the youngest children in the report, those aged four to five, rising from 22.4% in the last year to 22.6% and affecting and impacting more than 135,000 children.
The numbers are highest among children from the most underprivileged communities, where 13.3% of four- to five-year-olds are obese, compared with 5.9% in the most wealthy areas. Overweight and obesity frequency in year 6 is 26.9% in the most deprived areas, compared with 11.4% in the least deprived.
Public Health England said the figures presented the “significance of serious action from all sectors, with the government’s steps to tackle childhood obesity, such as its challenge to the food industry to lessen 20% of sugar and calories in everyday foods consumed on an everyday basis by children”.
Food companies have so far managed less than a mere 5% reduction in sugar over two years. The tax levied on sugary drinks, nevertheless, has resulted in manufacturers cutting the sugar content by nearly 29%.
Children who are obese experience bullying and low self-esteem and are at risk of grave long-term health problems, such as type 2 diabetes, cardiological diseases, and cancer.