Obesity rates among children rising in Suffolk but falling in Essex, Public Health England data shows

Obesity rates appear to be rising in Suffolk. Picture: CHRIS RADBURN/PA WIRE

Obesity rates appear to be rising in Suffolk. Picture: CHRIS RADBURN/PA WIRE - Credit: PA

Childhood obesity rates appear to be rising in Suffolk, with a new report estimating that one in seven children leaving primary school are now classed as obese.

Childhood obesity graphic

Childhood obesity graphic - Credit: Archant

Health chiefs last night pledged to invest more community work after Public Health England figures showed an average of 17.3% of Year 6 pupils were classed as obese between 2013/14 and 2015/16 in Suffolk.

This is an increase from the average 16.2% figure from between 2008/09 and 2010/11.

In terms of numbers, it rose from 3,219 to 3,623, suggesting around 400 more children at the end of primary school are now obese compared to around five years ago.

There was a smaller rise in Essex. It increased from 16.6% to 17.1%, falling below the Suffolk rate. The number has risen from 6,637 to 7,293.

Dr Chris Rufford, a Suffolk GP and governing body member of the NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “We will do everything that we can to support our partners with programmes to help young people and their families maintain healthy weight.

“We are rapidly heading towards having a greater number of people with illnesses which affect them for their entire life, and these are linked with obesity.

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“Simple changes – eating well, taking regular physical activity and drinking plenty of water – can make a difference if maintained over time.”

A Suffolk County Council spokesman said: “Our public health team commissions OneLife Suffolk to support children and families make healthier choices and support school approaches to healthier eating and increasing physical activity levels.”

Meanwhile, obesity rates among reception pupils, aged four or five, remained static in Suffolk, staying at 8.7% between the same periods. In Essex, it fell from 8.5% to 8.2%.

The data, based on the National Child Measurement Programme, also showed that an average of 31.7% of 11-year-olds in Suffolk were overweight between 2013/14 and 2015/16, up from 30.5% between 2010/11 and 2012/13. It fell in Essex, from 31.5% to 31.1%.

Adrian Coggins, head of public health and wellbeing commissioning at Essex County Council, said: “It’s very important we are not complacent, and we will continue to support people.

“There are some fantastic schemes already in action, including The Daily Mile, where primary school children are encouraged to build up to running a mile every day, the Tuck in Programme, which encourages fast food takeaways to use healthier cooking practices and the Be Food Smart app, which scans products’ bar codes to help parents make better everyday choices for the food and drink they give to their children.”