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NHSGGC director of Public Health stresses importance of preventing obesity in early years children

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The importance of tackling obesity has been re-emphasised as it was revealed that across Greater Glasgow and Clyde around 25% of children aged two and a half are overweight and almost 5% are obese. 

Dr Linda de Caestecker, director of Public Health, NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde (NHSGGC) stressed the importance of ongoing work in preventing and managing overweight children and obesity at today’s board meeting. 

Childhood overweight and obesity are a public concern with the burden currently falling hardest on children and young people from areas of deprivation. 

Obesity rates in primary one pupils have increased in recent years with 22% being classified as overweight/obese in 2012/13. More than half of that of that number live in Glasgow city. 

Children in areas of deprivation are twice as likely to be obese by the time they are five years old rising to three times more likely by the age of 11. 

Though stabilising, rates of childhood overweight are much higher than in previous decades which could lead to some children being set on a path of lifelong obesity. 

Dr de Caestecker said: “A long term, sustainable approach is required to address Child Healthy Weight issues across our population. It is important that we tackle obesity in young people as they are the group most likely to develop lifelong obesity. 

“The effects of poor diets across Greater Glasgow and Clyde are now having an impact on long term conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and some cancers which contribute to the area’s poor health record. 

“People are aware of obesity, but we still have work to do in helping them take the right steps to either avoid it or tackle the effects. 

While data on childhood overweight is limited and has to be interpreted with caution, patterns of childhood obesity have been observed through early years into the teenage years. 

Evidence suggests children who are overweight in early years are more likely to revert to normal weight than children who are still overweight at school age. 

The Scottish Health Survey shows rates of overweight and obesity increase with age in older children and young people. Data from 2014 highlights that 36% of Scottish 12-15 year olds are overweight and obese – with 13% being morbidly obese. 

The most rapid period of weight gain where young people turn from overweight to obese happens between the ages of 15-25 with obese teenagers likely to become obese adults. 

The board is drafting a Child Healthy Weight Framework which identified key areas for intervention at each life stage. These include: 

  • Provision of robust evidence-based infant feeding, weaning and physical activity advice as part of the universal children’s programme by health visitors
  • Weight management intervention for children with higher weight as part of routine assessments and the tailoring of individual plans in early years
  • A home based intervention for the most vulnerable/complex severely obese children in early years
  • Structured group-based intensive programmes for the most overweight early years and primary school children and their parents in community settings
  • Structured intensive interventions for the most overweight older children with additional tailored support for wider health and psychological needs

Dr de Caestecker concluded: “We have evidence from a number of surveys that some of our young people are leading increasingly unhealthy lifestyles that, if they continue, will lead to poor health outcomes in later life. 

“Successfully tackling child overweight and obesity requires the involvement of families, schools and communities as well as public and private agencies. The focus must be on prevention as well as the management of weight gain from pregnancy through to childhood and into adulthood.”

The board currently operates three weight management programmes for children and young people. 

MEND (ages 2-4) and MEND (7-13) sees advice provided to participating families to healthy eating and the need for physical activities. Behaviour change techniques are embedded and supporting parents and families to set their own goals such as trying a new food item and how to go about doing so or how to increase physical activity. 

ACES – Active Children Eating Smart – offers young people aged 5-15 old and their families support to lose weight and make long-lasting changes to their lifestyle. 

Weigh to Go is a life-changing service that gives overweight young people aged 16 to 18 the opportunity to get a bespoke weight loss plan and to enjoy physical activity free-of-charge.

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Last Updated: 11 November 2021