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One-in-five children obese in Southampton
ONE in five of Southampton’s primary schoolchildren is now obese, new figures have revealed.
The shocking figures mean the city’s ten and 11-year-olds are the fattest in Hampshire and are doomed to a life plagued by bad health.
The NHS statistics triggered a fresh warning that Britain’s obesity epidemic is “getting worse by the day and steadily spiralling out of control”.
City education boss Sarah Bogle said the new figures were “shocking” and vowed the council was doing all it could to tackle the crisis.
She said: “I think this level of obesity is extremely serious and something we need to tackle for the sake of the individual and the long-term health issues and the costs to the NHS in the future. “Southampton schools are strongly promoting healthy lifestyles, providing children with physical activities and enabling them to make healthy choices in their lives.
“To encourage this we are solidly promoting the national ‘Fit for Life’ programme to inspire children to take up exercise.”
But parents have to play their part or their children face a lifetime of bad health.
She said: “People have to take responsibility for the children and what they eat.”
Other areas – Test Valley and the Isle of Wight – have even more obese children of reception age.
In Test Valley, 9.9 per cent of the younger age group are obese – compared with nine per cent of four and five-year-olds in Southampton.
But that proportion rises to only 13.8 per cent for Year Six children in Test Valley – compared with the 19 per cent of ten and 11-year-olds in Southampton.
Meanwhile, Winchester has by far the best record in Hampshire, with figures of 6.7 per cent and 10.8 per cent respectively.
The Health and Social Care Information Centre, which compiled the data, linked soaring obesity rates with a decline in healthy eating and a lack of exercise.
And Graham Rowan, of the Obesity Management Association charity, said: “The obesity epidemic is getting worse by the day and steadily spiralling out of control.”
Worryingly, across England, almost half of parents whose children are obese wrongly thought they were “about the right weight”.
But the Department of Health (DoH) has insisted the Government – and food businesses – are taking action to make it “easier for people to make better choices”. Health Minister Norman Lamb told MPs: “For example, calorie labelling has expanded rapidly, with labelling now in around 9,000 outlets across the country.
“The Government has recently launched the ‘Change4Life Be Food Smart’ campaign to give people information about the foods they eat and help them make healthier choices.”
Researchers measured around 2,500 reception age children in Southampton and nearly 2,000 in Year Six.
Smaller numbers were examined in the other areas.
The obesity figures are based on body mass index, which is calculated by dividing weight in kilograms by height in metres squared.
Southampton’s figures are marginally better than the average statistics from across England, where 9.5 per cent of reception age children are obese and 19.2 per cent in Year Six.
However, large proportions of children were also found to be overweight – but not obese – including 13.2 per cent of four and five-year-olds in Southampton and 15.1 per cent of ten and 11-year-olds.
The statistics come just days after doctors demanded a 20 per cent hike in the cost of sugary drinks as part of a bid to persuade parents and children to eat and drink healthily.