Why are child obesity levels continuing to rise in Calderdale

Childhood obesity levels are rising in Calderdale – and ultimately it will be up to the borough to improve the situation.

Calderdale Council’s Children and Young People Scrutiny Board received and commented on a report into the issue, and heard what the council was doing to tackle it. Although childhood obesity levels continue to rise, Calderdale is not out of the ordinary – the borough is not significantly different to the England or Yorkshire and Humber average – but it used to be a lot better.

Health issue: Childhood obesity rates doubling between ages of 4-5 and 10-11

Health issue: Childhood obesity rates doubling between ages of 4-5 and 10-11

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A key age is between reception age children (four to five years) and Year 6 children (aged 10 to 11 years) where obesity continues to double. Almost 500 Year 6 children are classified as obese in Calderdale.

By area, Park ward has the highest figures for childhood obesity in both the age 4-5 and age 10-11 age groups.

Childhood obesity has many causes but can be summarised as eating unhealthy food and not doing enough physical activity.

There is a strong correlation between childhood obesity and deprivation, with the most deprived children being more likely to be obese.

Obesity due to genetics is a very minor contributor to the overall figure, said the report to councillors.

But its consequences include emotional and behavioural issues, school absence, poor health and an increased risk of ill health and early death in adulthood, it says.

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To tackle the issue, officers concluded that although the Sugar Tax is starting to make some inroads into unhealthy choices, national policy is not particularly helpful and Calderdale’s strategy is based on the six-point World Health Organisation approach.

This means: promoting the intake of healthy foods; promoting physical activity; pre-conception and pregnancy care; early childhood diet and physical activity; health, nutrition and physical activity for school age children; and weight management.

Public Health spends just under £500,000 per year on approaches to tackle childhood obesity but does not have direct control over much of this spend, accountability lying with its commissioned service providers.

Policy examples range from planning – not allowing new hot food takeaway developments within 400 metres of a secondary school – to the all-ages Active Calderdale scheme seeing 12 primary schools start doing an “official daily mile” in the past year.