5,000 children in East Anglia start primary school with healthy weight - but leave being overweight or obese

Cancer Research UK created a school uniform shop highlighting how XL uniforms could become the norm.

Cancer Research UK created a school uniform shop highlighting how XL uniforms could become the norm. Photo credit should read: Adrian Brooks/Imagewise - Credit: Adrian Brooks/Imagewise

Thousands of children from East Anglia will start primary school next week with a healthy weight – but leave overweight and obese six years later, health experts are warning.

New figures published today reveal the extent of childhood obesity in our region, with calls made to parents and decision-makers to tackle the problem directly.

The warning, from Cancer Research UK, comes as thousands of children get ready to start the academic year next week.

Obesity has been linked to causing a range of long-term health problems such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease – and is estimated to cost the NHS more than £4bn every year.

Earlier this month the government published a new childhood obesity strategy which drew criticism from some quarters for being 'watered down.'

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The figures show:

- An average of 5,242 children in the east of England start school with a healthy weight, but are overweight or obese when they leave.

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- Around one in five children in Norfolk and Suffolk aged between four and five is overweight or obese, while that figure rises to one in three for 10-11 year olds.

- In Cambridgeshire, 27pc of 10-11 year olds are obese or overweight.

Danielle Glavin, Cancer Research UK's spokesman for the eastern region, said: 'The figures released today highlight the urgent need to help protect the health of the region's youngsters.

'Obese children are around five times more likely to grow into obese adults, and obese adults are more likely to develop cancer and other diseases.'

A spokesman for Norfolk County Council's public health team, said childhood obesity is a 'very complex issue'.

'There are many contributing factors including behaviour, environment, genetics and culture, heavily influenced by the 'power of advertising,' the spokesman said.

'The evidence is that children do gain weight from Year Reception to Year 6, however, we all need to take responsibility for our children's health whether they are at home or at school.

'There are a number of initiatives to encourage children and parents to maintain a healthy weight.

'Fit4It is a locally developed healthy weight management programme for children that are overweight aged 7-16 years.

'Delivered across the county by the Community Sports Foundation, the fun programme covers areas such as diet and nutrition, self-esteem and confidence, physical activity and promotion of healthy lifestyles and behaviour change.'

Reducing obesity levels is also a priority for local NHS bosses with treatment for the condition set to rise from £25m to £38m within the next ten years.

Have you got a health story? Email nicholas.carding@archant.co.uk

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