Dewsbury is a child obesity hotspot, according to new figures

Dewsbury. Picture Scott MerryleesDewsbury. Picture Scott Merrylees
Dewsbury. Picture Scott Merrylees
Youngsters in Dewsbury West are the most likely in Kirklees to be obese or overweight.

Figures from the annual National Child Measurement Programme show that a shocking 27% of Year 6 children (those aged 10 and 11) in the ward are considered obese, while a further 14 per cent are overweight.

It means more than two in every five are heavier than is considered healthy.

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Similarly, 12 per cent of Reception-aged children (four- and five-year-olds) in Dewsbury West are obese, and another 11 per cent are heavier than they should be.

Caroline Cerny, alliance lead at Obesity Health Alliance, said: “These are extremely worrying numbers. Excess weight in childhood can lead to a number of health problems and often negatively affects children’s self-esteem.

“Children with a weight classified as obese are much more likely to still be living with obesity as adults which can increase their risk of diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

“But it doesn’t have to be like this. The Government can play a key role in shaping an environment that makes it easier for families to be healthier.

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“We are pleased that the Government has recently announced plans to bring in new stricter rules about how and where unhealthy foods can be promoted, including a 9pm watershed on TV and online and removal of sugary foods from checkouts.”

Measuring obesity in children is more complex than it is in adults.

While an adult with a BMI of 25 to 30 is overweight, and one with a BMI of 30 or over is obese, a child’s BMI naturally changes as they grow up, and it is different for boys and girls.

As such there is no fixed BMI cut-off for a child to be classed as overweight or obese – instead their BMI is also compared to the range of BMIs seen for children of the same age and sex through growth charts.

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Across the country, 20% of 10 and 11 year olds and 10% of four- and five-year-olds are obese, while a further 14% of Year 6 pupils and 13% of kids in Reception are overweight.

Many other wards in Kirklees also see rates of obese and overweight children that exceed this national average.

Ashbrow in Huddersfield also has high proportions of children who are struggling with their weight, similar to Dewsbury West, with 25% of children in Year 6 and 11% of Reception pupils considered obese.

A further 16% of 10 and 11 year olds and 13% of four and five year olds in the ward are overweight.

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Meanwhile, Holme Valley North at the other end of the borough has the lowest proportion of childhood obesity and excess weight in Kirklees.

There, just 7% of Reception kids and 15% of those in Year 6 are clinically obese, while a further 11% of four- and five-year-olds and 14% of 10- and 11-year-olds are overweight.

The Government has recently announced measures to tackle childhood obesity, including a ban on the advertising of food high in fat, sugar or salt on television and online before 9pm.

The strategy also includes restricting volume promotions, ending the promotion of high fat, sugar and salt products by volume and location, both online and in store, and introducing calorie labelling of food and drink in large restaurants, cafes and takeaways.

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A Government spokesperson said: “We are determined to tackle the problem of obesity across all ages and this week launched a world leading strategy to help reduce obesity rates and help everyone live healthier lives.

“We have already made huge progress towards our goal of halving childhood obesity by 2030 – cutting sugar from half of drinks on sale, funding exercise programmes in schools and working with councils to tackle child obesity locally through our trailblazers.”

However, the Labour Party is sceptical of the announcement.

Alex Norris MP, Labour’s Shadow Health and Social Care Minister, said: “Labour has long campaigned for radical action to tackle obesity.

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“We’ve had big promises before from Tory ministers on banning junk food advertising only for measures to be kicked into the long grass of consultation.

“But an effective obesity strategy needs action, not consultation. The Tories have pared public health to the bone and people are paying the price for ten years of this complacency.”

Labour’s own analysis has highlighted an ongoing and growing crisis, with 700 children in England admitted to hospital because of obesity in 2018/19 – the second-highest number on record.

They also found that less than half of children (47%) are currently meeting current physical activity guidelines.

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Meanwhile, early research has suggested that Covid-19 lockdowns worsen childhood obesity.

Last month, experts warned that the coronavirus lockdown could lead to a rise in obesity for a generation of kids, with a lack of exercise potentially leading to weight gain for many children.

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