As schools in the United Kingdom welcome their students, new data by Slimming World's charity partner, Cancer Research UK, shows that 57,100 children are graduating from primary school with an obese BMI. The figures went viral after the Governments Childhood Obesity Strategy was published earlier in August and was subject to strong criticism nationwide.
Thousands of pupils in the North East became overweight during their time at a primary institution, and according to the charity, the government does not take enough measures to prevent it. According to Cancer Research UK, if the current trend continues, more than 2,900 of the children starting school this September at a healthy weight will be obese or overweight upon graduation. The research also shows that nearly one in four of the four-year-olds is already in an unhealthy physical condition before starting school.
As Hannah Graham of Chronicle Live notes, it means that by the age of six, 36 percent of the 11-year-olds – almost 10,000 children — are dangerously large, and their health may be at risk.
The charity publicly accused the Government of "failing" youngsters with its obesity plan. As soon it published the document two weeks ago, leading health organisations commented that the government did not do enough to prevent obesity and overweight among young children, writes Paul Gallagher of the iNews. The strategy included a sugar tax on soft drinks, steps to encourage physical activities in schools and a legal framework for voluntary agreements with the food industry. However, Cancer Research UK along with other campaigners suggested for much more to be done, including measures to stop constant kids' exposures to junk food advertisements.
The health organizations also called for required targets on salt, sugar and fat levels for food producers, writes Mark Ellis of the Mirror. The charities also opted for a total ban on any junk food advertising before 9 pm.
Alison Cox, Cancer Research UK's director of prevention, commented:
"The childhood obesity plan is simply not up to the task of tackling children's obesity. Instead, the next generation faces a future of ill health, shortened lives, and an overstretched NHS. It will take much more than encouraging exercise and a sugar tax to tackle the obesity epidemic. The state missed a chance to save lives."
Before the publication of the official government strategy, Slimming World and the Royal Society for Public Health asked young people what they thought was causing obesity among children and how the government could stop or prevent it. Around half of the respondents blamed it on fast food takeaways, noted Slimming World. Others suggested that fast food deliveries to schools need to be banned.
Some people even proposed measures such as loyalty cards that reward healthy food choices. Several respondents noted that food packaging needs to be reconsidered as well so it will contain nutrition information for the whole product, not per serving.
According to Jenny Caven, Head of External Affairs at Slimming World, the latest data points out again the scale of the child obesity issue. As it is a multi-layered problem, it requires further attention by the government, the parents, food experts, and everyone involved in the process, she said. Caven has called on the government to acknowledge that the publication of its new strategy is just a starting point, and to commit to engaging experts in food and nutrition to ensure children's future health and well-being.