Action call over South Tyneside child obesity figures
More than one in four children in South Tyneside are classed as obese by the time they finish primary school, new figures reveal.
The Royal College of GPs says access to healthy food "should be a right and not a privilege," after a study found children in the more deprived areas are more than twice as likely to be obese than those in better off parts of the country.
NHS Digital figures show 27.1% of Year 6 pupils in South Tyneside in 2019-20 were obese – of which 6.8% were classed as severely obese.
Another 12.9% were found to be overweight.
That means 40% of South Tyneside's youngsters are unhealthily overweight when they finish primary school.
The data comes from the Government's annual National Child Measurement Programme – which records the height and weight of Year 6 and reception-age children in state-maintained schools to monitor obesity trends.
It revealed that 27.5% of 10 and 11-year-olds living in the most deprived areas were obese compared to 11.9% of those living in less deprived areas.
Among reception-age children, 13.3% in the most deprived areas were obese compared to six per cent in the least deprived.
Professor Rachel Batterham, special adviser on obesity for the Royal College of GPs, said the impact of deprivation on childhood obesity rates nationally is "alarming".
She said: "Access to healthy food should be a right and not a privilege. The gap in obesity prevalence between children from the most deprived and least deprived areas is stark and growing.
"It is clear that socio-economic factors such as under-employment or poverty play a key role in driving obesity and poor health.”
Caroline Cerny, alliance lead at Obesity Health Alliance, said: “In a year when public health has been propelled to the forefront of politics, we now need action on child health – not just words.
“Taking junk food out of the spotlight through restrictions on marketing and promotions – including the long overdue 9pm watershed on junk food adverts – should be the first step.
“The sooner action is taken, the sooner we can give all children the chance to grow up healthy."