Statistics Show Childhood Obesity Persisting in Britain

December 12, 2008 12:33 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Critics say that the British government’s initiatives to fight childhood obesity have failed, with new figures showing that a quarter of all four- and five-year-olds are overweight.

One-Quarter of British Primary School Children Are Obese

The NHS Information Centre in Britain recently released data showing that one-quarter of all four and five-year-olds starting primary school are overweight, and about one-third of children aged 10 or 11 are also obese.

Critics say that the government’s anti-obesity efforts have failed, and warn that obese children are at risk of developing serious illnesses such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes as adults.

“We had high hopes that there would have been a marked improvement after all the money that is being thrown at the problem but it seems that more radical measures will be needed to reduce obesity levels,” said National Obesity Forum spokesman Tam Fry to the Daily Mail. “The Government’s much-vaunted healthy schools policy and other measures are obviously not working, or very slow to get off the ground.”

The statistics are part of the National Child Measurement Programme, launched in August, which weighs primary school children. Some say that the option to “opt out” of the measurements has resulted in some of the heaviest children failing to participate, resulting in a distorted picture of childhood obesity.

Background: Childhood obesity rates holding steady in the U.S.

Despite widespread fears about an obesity epidemic, childhood obesity rates in the United States have stayed the same since 1999, according to a government study.

Health officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calculated the body mass index (BMI) of about 8,000 children and teens in the report, which was published in the latest issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association. The study also found that 32 percent of children and teenagers are still at risk for diabetes, high blood pressure and other obesity-related issues.

After 25 years of worsening news about childhood obesity, the study “provides a glimmer of hope,” said David Ludwig, a pediatric endocrinologist at Harvard Medical School and Children’s Hospital in Boston. But he warned that it is too early to tell whether the rates will stay at this plateau for a significant period of time.

Consumer activist group The Center for Consumer Freedom welcomed the news, accusing health activists and health officials of using alarmism to justify intrusive regulations by the government. “These findings fly in the face of almost a decade of threats by obesity activists,” the center says on its Web site.

But health experts are still concerned that roughly one-third of children remain classified as overweight, obese or morbidly obese.

“Go to a local school, park out front and observe the kids and you will see that roughly one-third of them are overweight or obese. It’s staggering,” says Dr. Reginald Washington, a pediatric cardiologist at the Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children in Denver.

Related Topics: School lunches, obesity drugs for kids

Studies have shown that childhood obesity can be diminished significantly when kids eat a healthy school lunch. But spiking prices of milk, grain, produce and meat have forced schools to consider rolling back healthy-food initiatives in favor of less expensive, high-calorie alternatives.

Still, it was reported in August that some states are using the school system to combat the obesity epidemic in America. One report noted that 61 percent of school districts in Arkansas have made policies against selling junk food in school vending machines. In November, some schools in Georgia decided against junk food vending machines as well.

In November, the journal Pediatrics found in a study of chronic mediation use in children ages 5 to 19 that more doctors are giving prescription drugs to children with obesity-related health issues such as diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol and depression.

Reference: Adult obesity, CDC, JAMA


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