One in Thirty Children Starting School in Wales is Severely Obese – New Report

The majority of children aged four to five in Wales are a healthy weight, according to a new Public Health Wales report.

However, concern remains that just over a quarter (26.4 per cent) are overweight or obese.

The report also finds that more than a thousand children aged four to five in Wales (3.3 per cent) were severely obese in 2017-18 – up from 2.7 per cent in 2012/13.

The Child Measurement Programme Annual Report 2017-18 is the first time information on severe childhood obesity has been presented in Wales.

The proportion of severely obese children is higher in the most disadvantaged areas of Wales at 3.9 per cent - and in Merthyr Tydfil one in twenty (5.1 per cent) are severely obese.

The report also finds that levels of severe obesity are higher in Wales than in England, where 2.4 per cent of children fall into this category, or in Scotland where the figure is 2.6 per cent.

Evidence from England suggests that more than half of severely obese children will still be severely obese at age nine to 10.

Lucy O’Loughlin, Consultant in Public Health for Public Health Wales, said:
 
“Every child deserves the best possible start in life. If a child spends their early years healthy and happy, they are more likely to grow into healthy and happy adults.
 
“This report highlights that currently in Wales, children do not have the same opportunities, with rates of obesity much higher in areas of greater social and economic disadvantage.
 
“Childhood obesity levels in Wales are not improving, and it is very worrying that children as young as four years old are falling into the category of being severely obese.  We know that once children are obese, they are at risk of getting even more obese as they get older.
 
“Without coordinated system-wide action to tackle this problem, things will not get any better.  That is why we are supporting the Welsh Government’s ongoing public consultation around their Healthy Weight, Healthy Wales strategy.  There is no one simple solution to tackle obesity.  This will need to involve stakeholders from across the whole system, working together to a shared set of goals and priorities.
 
“Parents have to fight against a range of powerful commercial and other influences in trying to give their children the best start in life, such as advertising of high sugar and high fat foods, concerns about levels of traffic on the roads and in some cases having enough money to buy food for their children.
 
“Parents who want more information on raising healthy happy children can visit www.everychildwales.co.uk, a website which will help them from when they are planning their pregnancy to when their child is five.  It provides independent advice based on the best scientific evidence free from commercial influence.”
 
The Child Measurement Programme for Wales is a surveillance programme set up so that we may better understand how children in Wales are growing.
 
The programme standardises the way primary school children are measured across Wales.
 
The information collected will help people working in health services and other public sector services understand patterns of child growth so they can plan services accordingly.