Thursday, 4 July 2013
A new report shows that nearly 30 per cent of five year olds in Wales have an unhealthy body mass index, with 12.5 per cent of children classed as obese.
Published by Public Health Wales, the results show that seven out of ten children (71 per cent) aged four to five during 2011/12 had a body mass index centile classified as healthy.
However, nearly three out of ten (28 per cent) of children were classed as overweight or obese. This prevalence was highest in Merthyr Tydfil (34 per cent) and Rhondda Cynon Taf (32 per cent) and lowest in Monmouthshire (22 per cent) and the Vale of Glamorgan (25 per cent).
The prevalence of overweight and obese children in Wales at 28 per cent was higher than England (with 23 per cent of children overweight or obese) and higher than any individual English region (the highest region was the North East of England 25 per cent).
The findings are from the Child Measurement Programme, a national programme run by Public Health Wales. The programme has collected information on the heights and weights of 29,400 reception age children in Wales during the 2011/12 academic year.
Dr Ciarán Humphreys, consultant in public health for Public Health Wales said, “This is the first time we have had a clear picture of the how children in Wales are growing and although the headline figures are worrying, this is something that can be reversed.
“We must have a response from all sectors in society including health, education and local communities themselves to ensure our children are able to adopt healthy lifestyles.
“This can be anything from making our communities more pedestrian and bicycle friendly to reducing access to unhealthy fast food near schools.
“As with most health risks, the sooner they are tackled the easier they are to address and the greater the long term benefits.
“On an individual level, programmes such as Change4Life which aims to help us all, but especially our kids, eat well, move more and live longer and provides tips and ideas to support parents who wish to make healthy lifestyle choices for their families.
“The MEND programme is another way that parents and children can be supported through education and advice. The ten week after-school programmes are targeted at helping children who are above the healthy weight for their age and height, to become fitter and healthier with the support of their parents or carers.
“Encouraging healthy eating and regular exercise at a young age provides children with an excellent start and helps them grow up to be healthy adults.”
A key part of the Child Measurement Programme is the standardisation of the measurement of children. Dr Ciarán Humphreys explained; “Prior to the Programme, children were measured in different ways and in different times of the year which meant that it was difficult to compare areas of Wales.
“For the first time we have data on childhood obesity at a local level across Wales to measure our progress against this important public health issue.
“This has been a transition year and it is recognised that not all the standards were met in full but we are happy that the results provide an meaningful picture of Wales.
“We hope that in the future there will be opportunities to repeat the measurements with older children so we can build a more comprehensive picture.”
Dr Ruth Hussey, Chief Medical Officer for Wales, said; “I welcome this first report on the growth of children at school entry across Wales. Having good information is the basis for effective action on healthy child growth and to reduce childhood obesity. This report provides a baseline from which we can monitor our progress as a nation and more locally, into the future. Together, we must work for a healthy, active and resilient community in Wales where all children have the best start in life.
"We have made some steps forward in Wales, such as the Flying Start early years programme, Change4Life campaign and the Welsh Network of Healthy School Schemes, which has now extended to pre-school settings; as well as working at the UK level on issues such as front-of-pack food labelling. The Welsh Government is committed to support healthy growth and reduce obesity through a range of actions, particularly on the root causes such as poverty.”
Download the Child Measurement Programme Annual Report 2011/2012 [ .pdf, 827KB]
More information about the Child Measurement Programme for Wales is available at www.publichealthwales.org/childmeasurement
Source: Public Health Wales