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Council to take action against growing childhood obesity

PUBLISHED: 07:00 29 November 2018

Bexley faces a rising childhood obesity problem as new figures show 40 per cent of Year 6 students are overweight. Picture: Chris Radburn/PA Images

Bexley faces a rising childhood obesity problem as new figures show 40 per cent of Year 6 students are overweight. Picture: Chris Radburn/PA Images

PA/Press Association Images

Bexley faces a rising childhood obesity problem as new figures show 40 per cent of Year 6 students are overweight.

The borough is the second worst in London for 10 and 11-year-olds being obese, a Bexley Council meeting was told.

Specialists say there is a pattern between areas of high deprivation and unhealthy lifestyles.

An obesity prevention strategy is being developed to try and tackle the rising levels of overweight younger people.

Davina Springer, interim public health specialist, said: “This strategy is to halt the rise of excess weight in the borough.

“We aim to reduce the rate of excess weight of children in Year 6 by a minimum of two per cent over five years.

“For adults we want to reduce the weight by 10 per cent. We want to deliver in the commitments made by the growth strategy to create healthy places for all.”

According to new data, three in 10 reception students are overweight or obese, a figure which rises to four in 10 by the end of Year 6.

The levels of childhood obesity have risen steadily in Bexley since 2008, with six in 10 people now obese by the time they turn 18.

Some of the highest rates are in the north of the borough and in Cray Meadows.

Areas in the west of the borough, such as in East Wickham, are also experiencing rising rates.

A lack of physical activity and a reliance on electronic devices are just some of the reasons behind the problem.

Bexley is also a “car-reliant” borough due to its limited public transport, the meeting was told.

Dr Anjan Ghosh, director of public health, said: “There are other things we need to explore more other than just cars. There is a strong correlation between childhood obesity and deprivation.

“So most of the high rates of obesity are in the north, you’d think in the north there would be lots of fast food outlets but there aren’t.

“There are a lot of overweight children, that’s reality. It needs to be studied more – it’s not easy to understand.”

The new strategy based around prevention and promoting lifestyle changes is currently being drafted before a final sign off in the future.

Stuart Rowbotham, the council’s director of health and wellbeing, said: “We need to get a hold of this issue. Weight issues are linked to serious long-term conditions, and those conditions drive social care costs.

“There has to be something to get the message across about personal responsibility.”

Bexley Council is set to invest £1.3m in prevention strategies.

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