Child obesity levels on increase in Hunts

THE number of obese children in Huntingdonshire is on the increase, according to latest NHS Cambridgeshire figures.

The report states that the percentage of children classified as obese in Year 6 (aged 10 and 11) has risen from 14.6 per cent in 2009/2010 to 17.7 per cent in 2010/11.

It means that an estimated 340 children in the district are seriously overweight. Although the figures were below the national average of 19 per cent, they were above the 16 per cent Cambridgeshire average.

But the problem is not as acute in younger children, where NHS figures state that 7.7 per cent of Reception class children (aged four and five) were obese – the national average is 9.4 per cent.

Val Thomas, consultant in public health at NHS Cambridgeshire, said one contributing factor towards the rise in Year 6 obesity was a reduction in physical activities and the popularity of computers and PlayStations.

However, she stressed that a lot of work was being undertaken to address the problem.

“Although figures in Huntingdonshire have risen, obesity in children is lower compared to national statistics – and with only one year’s data to go on we cannot say that it’s a trend,” she told The Hunts Post. “There is a lot of work going on in partnership with Cambridgeshire County Council, Huntingdonshire District Council and other agencies to promote weight management programmes, and these will take time to filter through.”

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One of the schemes launched by NHS Cambridgeshire is EnergiZe – a 14-week programme for families with overweight children.

Ms Thomas added: “Children can be self-referred or referred by a GP. The programme lasts for three months, and each week the families will take part in a two-hour interactive workshop looking at nutrition and physical activity.”

HDC also runs courses for children during school holidays and other activities aimed at families.

Councillor Tom Sanderson, whose executive responsibilities include sport and active lifestyles, told The Hunts Post: “One of the council’s key priorities is healthy living, which includes protecting people’s health, promoting active lifestyles and reducing health inequalities.”