Childhood obesity levels fall in Leeds but still remain high

Childhood obesity is on the rise.
Childhood obesity is on the rise.
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Childhood obesity levels have fallen in Leeds, however one in five youngsters in the city are obese by the time they leave primary school, new figures show.

Data from NHS Digital reveals that obesity among children in Year 6 has dropped from 20.4 per cent last year to 19.1 per cent.

And 8.6 per cent of children in reception classes in 2016/17 were obese, down from 8.7 per cent the year before.

The figures show that Leeds falls below the national and regional averages for both year groups, which have risen when compared with the previous year.

Nationally 9.6 per cent of children in reception classes in 2016/17 were obese, up from 9.3 per cent the year before, with a higher percentage of boys obese.

In Yorkshire the figure has risen from 9.4 per cent to 9.7 per cent, with Hull coming out worst at 13.2 per cent, compared to neighbouring East Riding, the lowest in the region at 7.9 per cent.

Deprived areas of the country are particularly affected, with more than double the number of obese children compared to more affluent areas.

Dr Charlotte Evans, associate professor in public health nutrition at the University of Leeds, said: “What we are finding nationally is it paints a worse picture for reception children. We would have expected it to go the other way. It shows the obesity strategy isn’t going far enough and that’s worrying.

“If we are seeing things getting worse in younger children, it is very bad news.”

Dr Evans suggested it could be due to cuts to Sure Start services and other programmes aimed at targeting pre-schoolers and families of young children, who are no longer getting the support they need.

She said: “I’m really hoping this will be a wake-up call and the Government will strengthen the obesity strategy.”

For all children aged 10 and 11 in Year 6, the final year of primary school, one in five - 20 per cent - are obese nationally, a figure that has remained stable compared to last year.

This picture is reflected in Yorkshire, where 20.4 per cent are obese, compared to 20.3 per cent in 2015/2016.

Bradford tops the table, with 23.9 per cent obese, and York comes out as the lowest in the region at 16 per cent.

A Bradford Council spokesman said: “Tackling childhood obesity is a long-term strategy for the district.

“There is much more work to be done.

“We have recently been selected to pilot with Leeds Beckett University into new ways we can tackle obesity in partnership with Public Health England.”