Childhood obesity problem for Great Yarmouth
More than a third of final year primary school children in Great Yarmouth and Waveney are overweight, with one in five classed as obese, according to new NHS figures.
The statistics were collected as part of the National Child Measurement Programme by measuring and weighing children in Reception and Year 6 at schools across the country.
Health professionals say the drop in number of children at a healthy weight could be a reflection of the current economic downturn, as parents on limited incomes opt for cheaper prepared foods which are high in fat, salt and sugars.
In Yarmouth and Waveney, 20.7pc of the 2,013 Year 6 pupils measured, aged 10 or 11, were classed as obese in 2010/11, with another 14.7pc overweight.
By comparison, the national obesity figure for Year 6 pupils is 19pc, 18,1pc for the rest of Norfolk, 16.8pc in Suffolk and 16.1pc in Cambridgeshire.
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More than one in 10, 12.5pc, of the 1,972 Reception pupils measured in Yarmouth and Waveney is also obese.
This compares to 9.4pc of four and five-year-olds nationally, 8.9pc in the rest of Norfolk, 8.3pc in Suffolk and 7.7pc in Cambridgeshire.
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Sarah Barnes, a health improvement manager with NHS Norfolk and Waveney, said: 'We are disappointed with the latest National Child Measurement Programme statistics, which show the proportion of children at a healthy weight in Great Yarmouth and Waveney has decreased since 2009/10.
'This could be a reflection of the current economic downturn. There is strong evidence linking deprivation to childhood obesity. We know parents face many challenges, and living on a limited income is one. They may be tempted by the deals of cheaper prepared foods which are high in fat, salt and sugars and may lack the confidence to cook from scratch spending money on new or different food their children may not eat.
'We remain committed to supporting families as they help their child move towards a healthy weight, and offer a wide range of free programmes to encourage healthy eating and exercise. In direct response to the NCMP statistics, we have redesigned some of these programmes, as well as introducing new initiatives.'
She added that it is not just the responsibility of the health service to promote healthy weight throughout childhood, and parents, private, voluntary, community and statutory organisations all have an important role to play and must work together.
Anyone who would like to find out more about healthy lifestyle programmes can ring 01493 852207 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Families can also find out more about how to improve their lifestyles by joining the growing Change4Life movement at www.nhs.uk/Change4life.