Fat chance of youths getting bigger, stats show

14th October 2011 at 01:00
Obesity and overweight levels have remained stable since 1998

Alarmist stories in the media about children getting fatter and fatter are off the mark, national statistics show.

Nearly a third of children are at an unhealthy weight - but obesity and overweight levels have remained stable since 1998.

In 2010 there were 32.5 per cent of children aged 2-15 outwith the "healthy range" for body mass index. That is slightly up on 2009 (30.5) but lower than in 2008 (33.6), and not much higher than in 1998 (29.7).

The proportion of obese children (14.3 per cent) is close to 1998 levels (13 per cent) and has dropped compared with 2008 and 2009; the number of obese girls has fallen since 1998.

The trends contrast markedly with those for adults: between 1995 and 2010, the proportion aged 16-64 who were overweight or obese increased from 52.4 to 63.3 per cent, while obesity rose from 17.2 to 27.4 per cent.

Meanwhile, World Health Organisation figures have shown that childhood obesity rates are lower in Scotland than in supposedly healthy Mediterranean countries such as Italy, Greece and Spain.

Peter Marsh of the Social Issues Research Council said those making the most noise about UK children getting fatter were pharmaceutical companies who made weight-reduction drugs.

The Scottish Health Survey also found that only 12 per cent of children aged 5-15 eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, but again the figure has changed little.

It is exactly the same as in 2003, the first year for which such data is available, although it has dropped from 14 per cent in both 2008 and 2009.

The number of adults getting five a day has remained on or just under a quarter since 2003, and is at 25 per cent for 2010.

The Scottish Health Survey was conducted in 1995, 1998 and 2003, and has been carried out annually since 2008.

Better health need not weigh down wallets

Initiatives to improve pupils' health can be implemented without extra funding, a Scottish Government report has found.

The national Health and Wellbeing in Schools project ran from September 2008 to March 2011. Although there was no formal evaluation of outcomes, evidence on a wide range of interventions was gathered.

Key observations include:

- support workers were able to take on "screening and surveillance work" previously done by registered practitioners, releasing professionals' time to focus on vulnerable children at key points, rather than crisis interventions;

- the impact of family support workers was "striking", with teachers reporting better attentiveness from children.

henry.hepburn@tess.co.uk.

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