Almost one in 20 children in the last year of primary school need medical help because of obesity, latest NHS figures have revealed.
According to the National Child Measurement Programme, 4.4% of year 6 pupils are severely obese which represents 26,000 youngsters. The severe obesity figures for 10- and 11-year-olds rose for the fourth consecutive year.
The term severe obesity denotes children that are obese and need medical help as a result.
Severe obesity among this age bracket has risen by more than a third since 2006, although generally obesity and overweight levels in year 6 has remained stable at 34.3%.
It comes as Professor Dame Sally Davies published a report to mark the end of her reign as Chief Medical Officer for England listing a series of measures to curb childhood obesity and type 2 diabetes in young people. In the report, she called for a wide range of measures to be considered to improve childhood obesity levels.
Results from the National Child Measurement Programme, published by NHS Digital, also suggest an increase in overweight and obesity levels in the youngest child category covered by the report. The figures show that 22.6% of four to five-year-olds are overweight or obese.
Caroline Cerny, from the Obesity Health Alliance, said: “Every child has the right to grow up healthy, but this data shows the stark reality is that children are being overwhelmed by a flood of unhealthy food in our environment. The number of children with a weight classified as severely obese is at an all-time high and this will damage their health now and in the future.
“This is a problem that can be fixed with bold and comprehensive action from our politicians who have the power to shape the environment our children are growing up in. It’s time for the government to bring in the measures that we know will stem the tide of unhealthy food marketing and promotions, starting with the long overdue 9pm watershed on junk food adverts on TV and online.”
In response to the report, Public Health Minister Jo Churchill said the obesity plan outlined by the government’s obesity plan would increase healthy choices: “These data highlight once again how important it is for us to tackle childhood obesity, which has a devastating impact on the health of our children. This problem has been decades in the making but we can turn this around.”