Survey reveals child obesity

LORNA MARSH The full picture of child obesity in Norfolk is set to be revealed after more than 12,000 children took part in a groundbreaking survey to provide a “foundation stone” for research into the epidemic and ways of dealing with it.

LORNA MARSH

The full picture of child obesity in Norfolk is set to be revealed after more than 12,000 children took part in a groundbreaking survey to provide a “foundation stone” for research into the epidemic and ways of dealing with it.

Norfolk PCT carried out the survey in the county which was replicated nationwide to provide the most detailed information ever seen on the numbers of overweight and obese children in England.

Trusts throughout the country were each set a target of measuring at least 80pc of pupils in reception year (ages four to five) and year six (ages 10 to 11) with Norfolk achieving more than 85pc across 344 schools.

Jon Cox, epidemiologist for Norfolk PCT, said the survey would give the first clear picture on the numbers of obese and overweight children.

“It is the biggest and most accurate survey of its kind in the world and we are delighted that so many parents, children and education workers in Norfolk gave it their support,” he said.

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“It is a vitally important piece of work because before you can tackle the problems resulting from obesity and target local resources and inter-ventions, you have to know the full facts.

“We needed a really good survey of children's heights and weights to get a proper understanding of what is happening with child's health and where the greatest prevalence of childhood obesity is.

“We know the main causes of obesity - a lack of exercise and a high calorie diet with too much fatty food and sugar - but without a really good survey of children's heights and weights we couldn't measure changes in the proportion of obese child in the future and identify any patterns. This is a real foundation stone.”

The data was gathered throughout June and July at LEA schools across the Norfolk PCT area. The heights and weights of 12,019 children were measured by healthcare professionals, and parents were given the choice of opting their child out of the survey.

Each PCT's results will be added to the National Child Measurement Database to produce a picture of child health across the country. The results are expected to be published in March.

Dr Cox said that to gain a more detailed local picture - such as mapping the levels of child obesity in specific Norfolk communities - further analysis would be required.

He said that next year the height and weight survey of children would be run throughout the school year, to ease the pressure on schools and to reduce the numbers of children who couldn't be measured because they were absent through sickness or early holiday.

“Obesity is a serious health issue in both adults and children.

“Obese children are more likely to experience serious health problems in later life, such as Type 2 diabetes, so it is even more vital to fully educate ourselves.”

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