The number of 10 and 11-year-old children classed as severely obese, the most overweight scale,in the final year of primary school is nearly double that of those in reception, new analysis by the Local Government Association reveals today.
The LGA, which represents 370 councils in England and Wales, is warning that severe child obesity rates, which have been published for the first time, are contributing to a multi-billion pound ill-health time bomb.
Figures show that more than 22,000 children aged 10 and 11 in Year 6 are classed as severely obese.
For most adults, a BMI of 40 or above means a person is severely obese – at least 60 per cent higher than the upper healthy weight BMI limit of 24.9.
The LGA said that the figures should serve as a “wake-up call” for concerted action to tackle the obesity crisis which is costing the NHS more than £5 billion a year.
Despite budget reductions, councils are spending more on running effective prevention schemes to help children stay healthy, which is key to tackling the child obesity crisis and reducing future costs to hospital, health and social care services.
But this essential prevention work, including the ability of councils to provide weight management services for children and adults, is being hampered by a £600 million reduction in councils’ public health budgets by central government between 2015/16 and 2019/20.
The LGA is calling for reductions in public health grants to be reversed by the Government and for further reforms to tackle childhood obesity. This includes councils having a say in how and where the soft drinks levy is spent, better labelling on food and drink products, and for councils to be given powers to ban junk food advertising near schools.
Cllr Izzi Seccombe, Chairman of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board, said:
“These new figures on severely obese children, who are in the most critical overweight category, are a further worrying wake-up call for urgent joined-up action.
“The UK is already the most obese nation in western Europe, with one in three 10 and 11-year-olds and one in five four and five-year-olds classed as overweight or obese, respectively.
“Unless we tackle this obesity crisis, today’s obese children will become tomorrow’s obese adults whose years of healthy life will be shortened by a whole host of health problems including diabetes, cancer and heart disease.