Calls for urgent action as childhood obesity in Portsmouth increases

New figures have revealed a growing number of obese children in the Portsmouth area
New figures have revealed a growing number of obese children in the Portsmouth area

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THE number of overweight or obese primary school children in the Portsmouth area has increased in the past 12 months, prompting calls for urgent action.

Figures released yesterday by NHS Digital show more children in Portsmouth and the surrounding areas are considered an unhealthy weight when starting Year R and Year 6.

Children deserve a healthy future and these figures are a reminder that addressing childhood obesity requires urgent action.

Jennie Leleux

The increasing numbers have been called a childhood ‘obesity crisis’ by the Local Government Association and Public Health England said urgent action is needed.

In Portsmouth, the number of children in their first year of school seen as obese went up from 8.9 per cent in 2015/16 to 10.7 per cent in 2016/17.

Similarly, the number of children in their final year of primary school considered obese increased from 20.4 per cent to 21.6 per cent.

The city was higher than the national average, which saw an increase in the past 12 months.

Havant saw its figures rise for obese children from eight per cent to 10.6 per cent for Year R pupils year-on-year while Gosport saw an increase in Year 6 pupils going from 17.3 per cent to 20.8 per cent.

Elsewhere, in Fareham the children in Year R who are overweight went up from 14 per cent in 2016/17 to 16.3 per cent in 2016/17.

​​But by the time children in the town reach Year 6, 12.3 per cent were overweight in 2016/17 – a decrease from 14.7 per cent in 2015/16.

Jennie Leleux, health and wellbeing specialist in childhood obesity for PHE south east, said: ‘Children deserve a healthy future and these figures are a reminder that addressing childhood obesity requires urgent action.

‘There is no single solution to reverse what’s been decades in the making. We need sustained actions to tackle poor diets and excess calorie intakes.

‘We’re working with the industry to make food healthier, we’ve produced guidance for councils on planning healthier towns and we’ve delivered campaigns encouraging people to choose healthier food and healthier lives.

‘A healthy weight in childhood lays the foundations for a healthy life as an adult.’

Cllr Izzi Seccombe, chairman of the Local Government Association’s community wellbeing board, said tackling obesity needs individuals taking responsibility and getting support from the government.

‘These figures are a stark reminder of the urgent childhood obesity crisis that we face as a nation, and the need for decisive, radical action.

‘Today’s obese children will be tomorrow’s obese adults, and with this comes a range of costly and debilitating major health conditions that could bankrupt adult social care and NHS services.’