Poor facilities blamed for high child obesity

Obesity levels in parts of rural Cambridgeshire are higher than the national average with youth leaders blaming poor facilities and overworked parents for the high figures.

The latest NHS Cambridgeshire statistics show 10.5 per cent of all Fenland children in reception class are obese and 19.1 per cent of all in year 6 in the same area are obese – around 2 percentage points higher than any other district in the county.

The figures also exceeded the national average for England with 9.4 per cent of all children in reception classes and 19 per cent of year 6 pupils recorded as obese.

David Driver, group leader for Chatteris 2nd Scouts, is seeing a drop in the numbers joining and thinks poor fitness levels are partly to blame.

He said: “The figures don’t surprise me as we have struggled with recruiting fairly recently and I think this reflects that. Those who are active are in a minority.

“It’s probably a safer environment indoors and parents are working longer hours these days so it’s easy to pacify children with alternative entertainment.

“Fewer and fewer children are being active, especially in rural areas where the facilities aren’t readily available.”

Huntingdonshire has had a sharp rise in the number of children classed as obese – 7.7 per cent in reception and 17.7 per cent in the older group.

For reception class, children in South Cambridgeshire have the lowest obesity figures for the county with 6.2 per cent, followed by East Cambridgeshire with 6.8 per cent and Cambridge was second highest with 8.4 per cent.

Luke Harradine, managing director of Bounce Into Sport sports camps which run in South Cambridgeshire, said there are a lot of clubs and activities in the district to help youngsters stay fit.

Val Thomas, consultant in public health at NHS Cambridgeshire, said: “The good news is childhood obesity rates are showing signs of stabilizing, nationally and in Cambridgeshire.

“However, we cannot be complacent and need to monitor these trends closely to ensure we have sustained improvement.

“We know there are some parts of the county where there are higher numbers of children who are overweight or obese.

“We are working closely with partners in these areas to understand the underlying issues and provide the appropriate information and support.”

To find out more visit www.cambridgeshire.nhs.uk/Your-health/ewmmll.htm.

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