Childhood Obesity

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The World Health Organization (2006, WHO) defines obesity as a body mass index (weight-for-height) equal to or more than 30. In the UK the prevalence of obesity in childhood has significantly increased over the past twenty five years. A study commissioned by The Health Survey for England (HSE) showed that between 1996 and 2001 the proportion of obese children aged six to fifteen rose by 3.5 per cent from 20 per cent to 23.5 per cent of the population in that age bracket; there is no reason to suspect that the children of England are not representative of the United Kingdom as a whole.

Concern has grown that because of this increase obesity-related diseases, such as diabetes and heart disorders, will, in due course, occur in more adults than at present and that they will be diagnosed at a much earlier age. There has been strong government action to address the problem of childhood obesity, most notably as one of the five outcomes sought within Every Child Matters (DfES,2003,ECM). This was established in 2004 by the Department of Children, Schools and Families, with the intention of working together with other with other children’s services in order to approach and promote the well being of children.

Further evidence is becoming available of more detailed analyses of the incidence of obesity by age, sex and geographical region. Using graph (i) below, produced for the National Child Measurement Programme from the NHS Information Centre (2009), we can see that the percentages of children falling into the “underweight”, “overweight” and “obese” categories remain generally stable over the three years reviewed, except that there was an increase of just over 1% in the “obese” category between 2006/07 and 2008/09. It is, however, disturb...

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...iet and therefore stronger government action and funding would be needed in order to reverse the current trend. Moreover, parents need to be more aware as there is evidence from the Forecasting Obesity 2010 (2006) documents that suggest that for both boys and girls, a significant number of children who live with parents who are classified as overweight or obese tended to be obese themselves. Little evidence is yet to suggest a high success rate, although Jamie Oliver has had a relevant impact on healthy food within the school environment. This could eventually, therefore, show a stabilisation of percentage of obese children. Nevertheless, this is based on limited data over a three year period and for this to be established, or even improved, there needs to be several more years of relevant data to prove that this is, in fact, a trend rather than a periodical error.

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