Published: 16:50, 11 October 2018
| Updated: 09:12, 12 October 2018
by Ismail Khwaja
Obesity is "one of the greatest public health crises" in Kent, according to a GP.
The latest NHS figures revealed almost 4% of Year Six children are severely obese in the county - that's up from 3.5% five years ago and just below the national figure of 4.2%, which is a record high.
The problem is even worse in Medway where 4.3% of 10 and 11 year-olds are classed as severely overweight.
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Strood GP, Dr Julian Spinks, said: “I’m both shocked and disappointed that obesity is rising both in Kent and Medway, and we’re significantly higher than the rest of the south of England.
“This represents a major challenge and a risk to people’s health going forward.”
Nearly a third of 10 and 11 year olds in the county are overweight and obese, which is a slight increase from last year’s report.
Dr Spinks believes this sets a dangerous precedent for children starting secondary school.
“Unfortunately overweight and obese children go on to be overweight and obese adults.
"So if we cannot tackle the problem early on, we’re saving ourselves up problems later.
“Obesity is rapidly coming up on the rails as being the biggest cause of preventable ill-health.
"It’s going to overtake smoking soon. So we really do need to tackle this if we’re going to not have a situation, like we did this year, where life expectancy is not rising.”
Although, it’s slightly better reading for children in reception - 8.3% are currently obese, which is a fall of 2% from the previous year.
Similarly, overweight and obese figures have decreased from 24.4% to 20.7%.
In contrast to the rest of the county, the numbers of Year 6 children who are overweight and obese in Medway have dropped to 34% from 35.5% in 2016/17.
However, statistics for children in reception aged four and five in Medway shows those who are overweight and obese has increased to 23.4% from 22.6%.
While 2.6% are severely obese, compared to the 2.7% previously reported.
Dr Spinks is calling for health departments, local authorities, schools and families to work together, in order to “stand a chance” of resolving the issue.
“Obesity is one of the greatest public health crises we have in Kent and Medway.
"We do need to see how we can do better at tackling it because clearly at the moment it’s not working the way we would like it to.
“We need to teach children about healthy eating, encourage them to experiment with things like vegetables and so on. Try to get them to exert themselves.
“I do think we need to separate competitive sport from just getting them to do exercise.
"If you’re overweight already competitive sport may not be a good thing for you, but we need them to be doing the exercise to actually put the weight down.”
However, he still felt optimistic of changing the current situation.
“I know an awful lot is going on both in health and in the social care setting to try and make this improve and I’m confident ultimately we will be able to do it.
"It’s a setback, but not something that’s permanent.”