Kent's shocking toll of childhood obesity revealed in figures released by Health & Social Care Information Centre
A child is tested for obesity. Stock image
Nearly one in five Kent children is clinically obese when they leave primary school, latest figures reveal.
Shocking figures released by the Health & Social Care Information Centre show Dartford and Gravesham youngsters tipped the scales as the county's largest.
In Kent as a whole, more than 15,000 children aged four and five, in reception year, and more than 14,000 children aged 10-11, in year 6, were measured and placed into one of four categories: underweight, healthy weight, overweight or obese.
The survey highlights the worrying trend towards obesity over just six years.
When youngsters start school just under 9% are obese. By the time they start secondary school an average of more than 18% in Kent are classed as obese.
In most areas across the county the levels of obesity double during those crucial years.
As a nation, the proportion of obese children, from both age ranges, has reduced from last year.
Dartford MP Gareth Johnson said: “As a parent myself I have experienced the challenges involved in trying to drag your child away from the Xbox, computer games, and plasma screens in order to get them to do some exercise.
“Most people agree this is something we need to address but parents do not want lectures from government but tips and suggestions.
“There is a lot of work being carried out in schools and in the community generally that seeks to promote a healthy lifestyle. This work should continue to be supported.”
A spokeswoman for The Gr@nd Healthy Living Centre in Gravesend said: “Childhood obesity is not just a Gravesham and Dartford issue, it is a national problem as people move less and eat more convenience foods which are usually higher in fat and sugar.
“The good news is that there is lots of support and advice.
“We need to tackle people’s misconceptions. People think that eating well and getting active means only eating boring food, running marathons and spending lots of money on ingredients and gym membership.”
Kent faces an obesity crisis. Library image
Experts at Dartford’s Healthy Living Centre and Gravesham’s The Gr@nd encourage people to seek health advice.
Both health centres run a free, fun programme for families called Don’t Sit Get Fit, funded by Kent County Council.
With the help of an activity coordinator and nutrition workshops, families can become healthier together.
For more general information on getting fit visit Kent County Council's website.
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