`

Obesity crisis: 40% of South Tyneside children become overweight by the age of 11

The government has released new childhood obesity figures.
The government has released new childhood obesity figures.

More than a thirds of children in South Tyneside are overweight by the time they leave primary school, according to shocking new figures.

Date released by the National Child Measurement Programme show that 16.3% of the borough’s youngsters are overweight while 23.1% are obese by the age of 11 – totalling 39.3%.

These are worrying figures. We recognise that changing attitudes to eating and exercise from a young age is vital to prevent children from growing up with a time bomb of health problems and poor lifestyle choices later in life.

Coun Moira Smith, lead member for public health and wellbeing at South Tyneside Council

In reception class, which children join at age four, 14.2% were overweight last year, and 11.1% were obese, totalling 25.3%.

Obesity, it has previously been reported, costs the borough £50million a year.

The figures have prompted the British Heart Foundation to call on a ban for junk food TV advertising before 9pm as part of the Government’s Childhood Obesity Strategy, to help improve children’s health.

The charity says that millions of children across the UK are being exposed to junk food adverts during popular shows such as The X Factor and Hollyoaks.

In the North East, about 36% of Year 6 children are obese or overweight.

Coun Moira Smith, lead member for public health and wellbeing at South Tyneside Council, said: “These are worrying figures. We recognise that changing attitudes to eating and exercise from a young age is vital to prevent children from 
growing up with a timebomb of health problems and poor lifestyle choices later in life.

“Tackling obesity and promoting healthy lifestyles among our children and young people are among our top priorities. As part of our Childhood Obesity Strategy, we provide training to staff working with families who may be overweight as well as raising awareness of the national Change4Life programme within local children’s services to help practitioners support families to make healthy lifestyle choices.

“We are also committed to providing fresh, tasty, nutritious meals in our schools and encourage schools to adopt further measures to encourage healthy lifestyles among their pupils.

“We have also been involved in helping to reduce the number of hot food takeaways across the borough.

“There are plenty of other things families and their children can do to get more active across the borough, from taking advantage of our wealth of outdoor play areas and activities and services in our children’s centres to walking, cycling or scooting to school.

“Promoting small changes in eating habits and lifestyles among families can make a huge difference in our efforts to reduce the number of children who are obese or overweight.”

Problem has plagued South Tyneside for years

This isn’t the first time children in South Tyneside have been labelled obese.

In March, last year, South Tyneside Council announced an action plan to control the borough’s increasing number of takeaways.

The plan aimed to tackled the borough’s £50million-a-year obesity bill.

The move came after research revealing particularly high levels of takeaway numbers in areas of the highest deprivation, including the Simonside, Rekendyke and Riverside areas of South Shields.

In January 2013, it was revealed that 38% of 10 to 11-year-olds were considered overweight or obese.

The figures were significantly higher that the national average.

Along with the third of the borough’s adults who were deemed obese, the problem had cost the NHS in South Tyneside £50.7million.

Back in 2006, nearly a quarter of five-year-olds in the borough were classed as overweight.