One in three Norfolk children finishing primary school 'unhealthily overweight'
PUBLISHED: 06:00 22 October 2019 | UPDATED: 09:14 22 October 2019
One in three children in Norfolk are leaving primary school unhealthily overweight, new figures show.
In 2018/19, 19pc of year six pupils in the county were obese - a slight rise since comparable records began in 2006/07 - while 14pc were overweight.
Around 4pc were severely obese - the same as the national average, which hit a record high for a fourth consecutive year.
The data from NHS Digital also showed that nearly one in four children are overweight by the time they start school, with 10pc of reception children classed as obese and 13pc as overweight.
Suffolk saw a similar picture, with 30pc of year six children being overweight (13pc) or obese (17pc) in 2018/19.
Schools have taken measures over the past 15 years to encourage healthier choices among their pupils, from the push for healthier school dinners and junk food-free vending machines to the introduction of the Daily Mile exercise challenge.
At Howard Junior School in King's Lynn pupils are encouraged to take part in a junior Parkrun and rewarded in school for their efforts. They also have step counters and fitness trackers on their individual iPads.
Headteacher Greg Hill - a runner and previous Parkrun participant - said 41pc of last year's year six cohort were overweight, making an emphasis on healthy lifestyles even more important.
"Action is required on our part," he said. "I've seen the power of running not only for health but mental wellbeing. Along came Junior Parkrun in The Walks and I thought I would encourage pupils to take part. Not only this, but we always reward pupils with a certificate for running."
Public Health England works out obesity using statistics used to determine a child's BMI. It defines a child as obese if their BMI is in the chart's top 5pc and overweight if they are in the top 15pc.
Obesity can lead to heart problems and type 2 diabetes later in life as well as psychological issues such as low self-esteem and depression.
Of this year's statistics, a Norfolk County Council spokesman said: "Our latest results show no significant change and the East of England figure is one of the lowest in the country."
Public health minister and Suffolk MP Jo Churchill said: "We are working with councils to tackle child obesity locally through new and ground-breaking programmes, cutting large amounts of sugar from food and soft drinks, and investing millions to give children opportunities to exercise in schools."
- If a parent is concerned about their child's weight and feel they need support, they can call 0300 300123 or the parent line on 631590. Young people aged 11 to 19 can also text Chathealth on 07480 635060.