The Government certainly are taking childhood obesity pretty seriously – and rightly so as it is an increasingly significant concern with trends of very young overweight children rising all the time. Now primary school children as young as four will be encouraged to attend “weight management” courses as health trusts around the country are being pressured by the NHS to provide local weight loss clinics for obese youngsters.
Currently Rotherham and Nottingham are running pilot schemes to assess their effectiveness, where children are attending six-week long residential courses at costs of up to £3,000 per person. Other non-residential schemes are also up and running, with the NHS keen for more trusts to similarly get on board to tackle the worrying problem.
Although it may seem like a bit of an intrusive and rigid process, children are now compulsorily weighed when they begin primary school – both in their first and second year in order to keep a track of unhealthy weights. Parents will then receive a perhaps unwelcome letter, informing them of whether or not their child is at a healthy weight.
This new programme will give parents the choice to decide whether they would consider it appropriate and approvable to send their children on the course, if they are deemed to be overweight. NHS figures suggest a worrying 1 in 3 children are overweight by the time they enter secondary school – a tough environment in which to be ‘the fat kid’.
More severe steps may be taken if a child is considered to be obese – they could be referred to a paediatrician for further help and specialist treatment, offered anti-obesity drugs or even in some extreme cases – booked in for fat reducing surgery.
A Department of Health spokeswoman said, “Obesity is the biggest health challenge we face. We are taking tough action and investing £372m to address it and to prevent people becoming obese in the first place. Our initial focus will be on children.”
An NHS report in 2007 predicted that 60% of men, 50% of women and 25% of children would be obese by 2050 if no action were taken. These are serious and scary figures, so the time to act is ever present as they say.