Local councils are calling for “urgent action” on obesity on the back of data showing that more than 600 children and teenagers are now being treated for type II diabetes, which is largely preventable and normally only seen in adults aged over 40 years.
The Local Government Association, which represents more than 370 councils in England and Wales, says the continuing rise in cases - 14 percent in one year - is “a hugely disturbing trend” and “an important reminder of one of the biggest public health challenges the country faces”.
According to figures for 2015/16 from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, published earlier this year, 78.5 percent of the 621 children and young people under the age of 25 receiving care for type II diabetes from Paediatric Diabetes Units in England and Wales were also obese, while fifteen of the children were aged between five and nine.
In reality the number of those with type II diabetes is likely to be even higher, given that the figures don’t take into account those treated for the condition within primary care.
The government published a childhood obesity plan last year which includes a reduction in the amount of sugar in products consumed by children by at least 20 percent by 2020, including a 5 percent reduction in year one. However, the plan came under fire for being a watered-down strategy that critics believe will fail to adequately tackle the rising obesity trend in the country.
The LGA says it needs more money to combat the problem, and is calling now on the government to in the very least reverse cuts to councils’ public health budgets of £531 million, a reduction of nearly 10 percent over a five year period, which have impaired their ability to tackle childhood obesity and prevent associated conditions.
“Obesity is usually linked with major health conditions later on in life, but already we are seeing the devastating consequences at an early age,” said Cllr Izzi Seccombe, chairman of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board.
“Ahead of the first anniversary of the childhood obesity plan, this highlights the need to take urgent action on this major public health time bomb.”
Earlier this year, the Obesity Health Alliance said the number of overweight and obese children is at its highest ever level which is costing the NHS at least £5.1 billion a year.
Based on current trends, more than one in five children are overweight or obese in their first year of primary school rising to over one in three by the time they leave, while two-thirds of adults in the UK are carrying too much weight. It is expected that half of all children will be obese or overweight by 2020.