AN MP has called for parents to take more responsibility for their children’s health after figures shockingly revealed two in every five pupils leaving Bradford primary schools are overweight.
NHS Digital figures show 27.1 per cent of Year 6 pupils measured in the city’s schools were obese in 2021-22 – including 7.4 per cent who were severely obese.
A further 14.6 per cent of children were overweight, meaning 41.7 per cent of Bradford’s youngsters are unhealthily overweight when they finish primary school.
Conservatives MP Philip Davies (Shipley) feels the solution to Bradford’s obesity problem is simple.
He said: “Obesity is pretty much caused by eating too much food and/or doing too little exercise.
“We don’t need to put up the price of food for everyone in the country to tackle this issue.
“People just need to take more responsibility for their health and that of their children.”
The data comes from the Government’s annual National Child Measurement Programme – part of its approach to tackling obesity – which records the height and weight of year 6 and reception-age children in state-maintained schools across England to monitor obesity trends.
The figures show fewer older primary school pupils in Bradford are living with obesity than before the coronavirus pandemic – 28.1 per cent of students measured were obese in 2019-20, the latest period with comparable local data.
Mr Davies added: “There is no problem that the health lobby doesn’t think can be solved by a huge expansion of the nanny state, but wanting to put up the price of food during a cost of living crisis would be utterly idiotic.
“What we don’t need is a further triumph for the nanny state from the public health socialists and extremists which won’t make a blind bit of difference to levels of obesity anyway.”
The data revealed that 31.3 per cent of 10 and 11-year-old children living in the most deprived areas of England were obese compared to 13.5 per cent of those living in the least deprived areas.
The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health is calling on new Health Secretary Steve Barclay to reinforce the Government’s anti-obesity strategy, which was recently rumoured to be at risk of being scrapped.
Measures in the strategy include scrapping junk food adverts online and on TV before 9pm, expanding weight management services available through the NHS and preventing shops from putting promotions on foods high in fat, sugar or salt.
Helen Stewart, officer for health improvement at the RCPCH, said the data “reaffirms the intrinsic link between obesity and poverty”.
She added: “We now find ourselves in a situation where our most vulnerable children are twice as likely to become obese, and subsequently be at a higher risk of chronic illnesses, mental health issues and even a shorter life span.
“It’s inherently wrong that these children can be placed at such a disadvantage before even leaving primary school.”
A government spokesperson did not comment on whether it would press ahead with the anti-obesity strategy but said it is “committed to halving childhood obesity by 2030” through support schemes for vulnerable families, such as Healthy Start.
“Over £150 million is spent every year on the Healthy Food Schemes to promote a healthy diet for children,” they added.
Across England, obesity prevalence among both reception and year 6 pupils fell in 2021-22, to 10.1% and 23.4% respectively, following a rise the previous year.
But the obesity rate for both classes is still higher than before the pandemic as the crisis “exacerbated an already bad situation”, according to the Obesity Health Alliance.
Director Katharine Jenner said: “The precise causes will still need to be analysed, but we do know that sales of unhealthy food products increased during the pandemic.
“The small drop, likely to be a consequence of children returning to school post-pandemic and having regular snacks and mealtimes, shows improvements are possible.
“But they will not drop further without political will from the highest levels of government.”
She added that implementing obesity policies will have a “disproportional benefit” to those on low incomes.
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