The number of children and young people in England and Wales who have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes has increased by nearly 50% in five years, findings suggest.

According to the Local Government Association (LGA), which represents councils across England and Wales, there were nearly 750 new cases of young people under 25 who received treatment for the condition in 2017/18. This is an increase of 47% on the 507 cases in 2013/14.

The LGA has called for “urgent action” in bringing these figures down and has identified obesity as the single greatest risk factor for type 2 diabetes.

Councillor Ian Hudspeth, Chairman of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: “It is extremely worrying that we are seeing more young people develop type 2 diabetes, a condition which is rare in children and more typically develops in adults over the age of 40. Being overweight or obese is one of the key risk factors in this, which is preventable and councils are uniquely placed to do something about this.”

It is entirely possible to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes among overweight children and adults. Eating a healthy diet low in sugar and processed foods and instead of eating unprocessed, ‘real” food with a good intake of non-starchy vegetables can help with this.

The government’s childhood obesity plan was launched in 2017, and in 2018 a sugar tax was introduced where a levy is now charged on manufacturers unwilling to reduce the sugar in their products.

Cllr Hudspeth said: “The Government’s childhood obesity plan set out bold ambitions to halve the number of obese children by 2030 and we wait to see what more is in the forthcoming prevention green paper. But we need urgent action now. Type 2 diabetes can be a lifelong debilitating illness and these figures will only multiply if we delay.”

The data was recorded by those who were treated in a pediatric ward in hospitals. The figures do not take into account primary care so it could mean the number of young people with type 2 diabetes is much higher. The figures were collected by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, which stated that 745 children and young people under the age of 25 received type 2 diabetes treatment in hospital, of which 84.6% were obese.

The latest data show an increase of 47% on the 507 cases from 2013/14 and is an increase of 30 cases from 715 in 2016/17.

The total number of children with type 2 diabetes in the UK is likely to be significantly higher than 745 as these figures come from the 2017/18 National Paediatric Diabetes Audit which does not include children or young people that are being treated for type 2 diabetes in primary care.

“Today nearly a third of children aged 2-15 are overweight or obese and children from the most deprived areas are more than twice as likely to be obese than those from the most affluent,” added Cllr Hudspeth.

“Councils with their public health responsibilities are on the frontline fighting obesity but for this to work effectively they need to be properly resourced. This is why the Government should use the upcoming Spending Review to reverse the £700 million cuts to councils’ public health budgets, to help our children live healthy and fulfilling lives.”

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