The National Child Measurement Programme in England published a report showing that more than one in three children (34.2 percent) in year 6 was either overweight or obese in 2015-16, compared to 22.1 percent in reception year, and the figures also show that obesity prevalence for children in reception living in the most deprived areas (12.5 percent) was more than double that of those living in the least deprived areas (5.5 percent), further highlighting health inequalities.
A study from Peninsula Medical School in Plymouth last year shows :
- three quarters of parents failed to recognize their child was overweight.
- 33 percent of mums and 57 percent of dads considered their child's weight to be 'about right' when, in fact, they were obese.
- one in ten parents expressed some concern about their child being underweight when they were actually a normal, healthy weight.
In the UK, obesity currently costs £2 billion annually and shortens lives by nine years due to the health problems it associates. Some health experts say there is a need for government intervention.
Professor Russell Viner, officer for health promotion for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health said, "these latest statistics act as a stark reminder as to just how serious the UK's obesity problem is. With over a fifth of reception children overweight or obese and a third of children in year six - a rise from last year's figures, it is not an understatement to say we are entering a state of emergency."
"We cannot afford for the next generation of children to continue on this trajectory. Obesity is already costing the NHS over £6bn - a figure it can ill afford - thanks to the development of conditions like Type Two Diabetes and asthma, all of which we are seeing much earlier. This of course has a knock-on effect on NHS resources," Viner added.
The reason why children are becoming fat is because of too much sugar, salt and saturates, and little exercise. In 2004, a survey by Mother & Baby magazine shows that nine out of 10 toddlers eat junk food, with chocolate, biscuits, crisps, fish fingers, chips, cake and chicken nuggets appearing in their top 10 favorite foods.
Health experts are urging the government to plan further actions against childhood obesity, including restrictions on junk food advertising before 9pm. Parents are also encouraged to promote early eating habits from an early age.