Published: 13:08, 11 May 2021
| Updated: 13:02, 12 May 2021
Kent has more obese children than anywhere else in the country, a new NHS study has revealed.
Thousands of school age youngsters are obese and the latest figures show that nearly one-quarter of 16,760 Year 6 pupils were classed as obese or severely obese between September 2019 and July 2020, according to NHS digital data reviewed by the government last month.
Julie Clark a nutritionist from Whitstable speaks about the issue
Key reasons behind this include a poor diet and a high sugar intake, which can lead to serious health risks including heart disease, cancer and tooth decay.
Dr Alison Tedstone, Chief Nutritionist at Public Health England, has called on swift action to reduce childhood obesity and close the inequality gap.
She said: "Too many children are living with obesity, threatening their future mental and physical health. Bold measures are needed to tackle this."
Nationally, Kent recorded the highest number of obese children in the school calendar year of 2019 to 2020, second to Essex and third to Birmingham.
Under this, around 3,350 children aged 10 to 11 were identified as obese while 705 were found to be severely obese in the county.
Meanwhile, about 12% of 16,545 Kent children in Year Reception were found to be obese and severely obese. The students were aged between four and five years.
Local authorities across England have been working closely with Whitehall to create healthier environments.
Kent County Council (KCC), the local health authority which spans 12 districts, has revealed a series of support packages available to families.
KCC's acting director of public health, Allison Duggal, said: "Overweight or obese children are more likely to be overweight or obese as adults.
"This increases their risk of heart disease and some cancers, while more young people than ever are developing Type 2 diabetes.
"Excess sugar can also lead to painful tooth decay, with around 16 percent of five-year-olds in Kent having tooth decay.
"When considering rates per 100,000, the prevalence of obesity for reception year in Kent is 10.4% - the England average is 9.9%.
"For year 6, the figures for 2019/20 show the prevalence of obesity as 19.9% while the England average is 21%."
Government health experts have been monitoring how the food industry are making everyday food and drinks healthier.
Schools have also offered support to increase children's knowledge about healthy lifestyles and a 1:1 package of care with families, using goal setting techniques to change behaviours.
Dr Duggal added: “We know that poor diet and too much sugar is a major issue and key contributor to the growing obesity rates seen both nationally and locally in Kent."
Families have been encouraged to look for the Change4Life ‘Good Choice’ badge in shops.
These can be downloaded via the free Food Scanner app or people can search Change4Life to help them find lower sugar options.
For more information, click here or search for to @Change4LifeKent on Facebook.