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Almost a third of 10 to 11-year-olds in England’s most deprived areas are obese, data shows. The figure of 31 percent was down from a pandemic spike of 34 percent a year earlier but still more than double the 14 percent in the least deprived areas.
Despite the slight improvement, this year’s National Child Measurement Programme reveals obesity rates remain stubbornly high in England.
Overall, the annual programme, which measures the height and weight of children in Reception class and Year 6, found 23 percent of 10 to 11-year-olds were obese.
This was down from 26 percent in 2020-21 but still above the 2019-20 figure of 21 percent.
For children aged four to five, obesity rates rose from 10 to 14 percent during the pandemic and have now dropped back to 10 percent. Katharine Jenner, director of the Obesity Health Alliance, said: “The small drop, likely to be a consequence of children returning to school and having regular snack and mealtimes, shows improvements are possible.
“But they will not drop further without political will from the highest levels of government.”
The Government has come under fire from health campaigners for backtracking on plans to restrict sales and advertising of junk food.
Boris Johnson scrapped plans to ban “buy one get one free” deals for unhealthy foods and delayed a 9pm watershed for TV ads following a revolt from Tory MPs.
Ministers said the food industry needed more time to prepare and there were fears the measures would pile pressure on families battling a cost-of-living crisis.
However, Ms Jenner said the policies would “have a disproportionate benefit to those on low incomes”.
She added: “Reducing childhood obesity is fundamental to tackling the inequalities that undermine our society, and it is crucial to allow everyone to live happier, freer and more productive lives.”
Tam Fry, chairman of the National Obesity Forum, said the Government had “consistently failed to tackle obesity, and this is felt most in deprived areas”.
Helen Stewart, of the Royal College of Paediatric and Child Health, said the data “reaffirms the intrinsic link between obesity and poverty”.
She added: “We now find ourselves in a situation where our most vulnerable children are twice as likely to become obese, and subsequently be at a higher risk of chronic illnesses, mental health issues and even a shorter life span.”
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