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Dramatic rise in childhood obesity reignites call for summer holidays rethink

By Deven Pamben    14 Oct 2017
If current trends continue more youngsters will be obese than moderately or severely underweight by 2022

A 'shocking' rise in childhood obesity figures means Britain must act now or risk the scales tipping further, according to ukactive.

The number of obese children worldwide has risen tenfold since 1975 and if current trends continue more youngsters will be obese than moderately or severely underweight by 2022, according to projections in a study by Imperial College London and the World Health Organization (WHO).

“These shocking statistics only further demonstrate that Britain needs to take a proactive holistic approach to tackling childhood obesity,” said Jack Shakespeare, head of ukactive Kids.

“This is why ukactive is calling for sugar levy money to be spent outside the school term, opening empty school facilities in the holidays. These would offer a range of activities to encourage children to develop healthy lifestyle habits.

“An all-inclusive strategy that promotes regular physical activity, a sensible diet and a commitment to mental wellbeing is the only way to improve children’s health as a whole, and programmes should be geared towards providing all of these.”

The research, published in The Lancet this week, analysed weight and height measurements from nearly 130 million people (31.5 million people aged five to 19, and 97.4 million aged 20 and older), making it the largest ever number of participants involved in an epidemiological study.

Using the body mass index, the study shows obesity rates in the world’s children and adolescents increased from less than one per cent (equivalent to five million girls and six million boys) in 1975 to nearly six per cent in girls (50 million) and nearly eight per cent in boys (74 million) in 2016.

Combined, the number of obese youngsters rose from 11 million in 1975 to 124 million in 2016, while 75 million girls and 117 boys million were moderately or severely underweight.

In conjunction with the release of the study, the WHO is publishing a summary of the Ending Childhood Obesity (ECHO) Implementation Plan.

Dr Fiona Bull, programme coordinator for surveillance and population-based prevention of noncommunicable diseases at the WHO, said: “Countries should aim particularly to reduce consumption of cheap, ultra-processed, calorie dense, nutrient poor foods. They should also reduce the time children spend on screen-based and sedentary leisure activities by promoting greater participation in physical activity through active recreation and sports.”

In 2016 the obesity rate was highest in Polynesia and Micronesia, followed by the high-income English-speaking regions, which includes the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and the UK.

The areas of the world with the largest increase in the number of obese children and adolescents were East Asia, the high-income English-speaking region, and the Middle East and North Africa.

WHO  ukactive  Imperial College 
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